Dahdaleh Institute awards annual seed grants


Following its fourth annual Workshop on Critical Social Science Perspectives in Global Health Research, York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research awarded five researchers $5,000 seed grants to further develop grant proposals and research programs to carry out critical global health research.

All winners of the grants this year embody the critical social science perspectives in global health research that is representative of Dahdaleh’s three research themes: planetary health, global health and humanitarianism, as well as global health foresighting.

The recipients – largely representing the School of Global Health – and their projects are:

Syed Imran Ali, research Fellow in global health and humanitarianism, and Stephanie Gora, assistant professor in civil engineering, will explore community-based participatory water quality monitoring for safe water optimization in the Canadian North.

Chloe Clifford Astbury, postdoctoral researcher in the School of Global Health, will pursue mining, health and environmental change by using systems mapping to understand relationships in complex systems.

Godfred Boateng, assistant professor, director of the Global and Environmental Health Lab, and faculty Fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute, is studying Black anxiety with an exploratory and intervention look at Black families with children in and out of the criminal justice system in Canada.

Ahmad Firas Khalid, faculty Fellow in the Faculty of Health, will use experiential simulation-based learning to increase students’ ability to analyze increasingly complex global health challenges through a mixed methods study.

Gerson Luiz Scheidweiler Ferreira, a postdoctoral Fellow at Dahdaleh will examine how to break barriers to sexual and reproductive health by empowering Venezuelan refugee women in Brazil’s resettlement process.

2023 Critical Perspectives in Global Health Research banner

In keeping with the overall mission of Dahdaleh’s Critical Perspectives in Global Health’s (CPGH), these projects will seek to create greater effectiveness, equity and excellence in global health. The recipients of the seed grant share that in common with many of the projects presented at the Global Health Research Workshop earlier this year, which highlighted research looking at a broad range of issues.

Those included:

  • medical waste management practices in Accra, Ghana since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, presented by Jeffrey Squire, faculty member in the Department of Social Science;
  • the role of social media and how negative sentiments or misinformation contributes to vaccine hesitancy, presented by Blessing Ogbuokiri, postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics;
  • health-care inequity in post-slavery societies with a specific focus on Quilombolas populations, presented by Simone Bohn, associate professor in Department of Politics;
  • misoprostol and its use in providing reproductive health care during humanitarian emergencies, presented by Maggie MacDonald, associate professor and graduate program director in the Department of Anthropology; and
  • Indigenous Williche peoples acts of ecological repair and how it contributes to planetary health in the past, present and future, presented by Pablo Aránguiz, associate researcher with Young Lives Research Lab at York.

Watch a full recording of the workshop here.

For more information about CPGH, visit its project page.

York takes academic leadership role at Congress 2023 

Female conference lecture teacher professor

By Ashley Goodfellow Craig, editor, YFile

Upwards of 250 York University faculty members and scholars are among the presenters during the 2023 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, where they take an academic leadership role in sharing their research with colleagues from across the nation. 

The flagship event of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences – taking place May 27 to June 2 at York University’s Keele Campus – returns to an in-person format this year, following a hiatus in 2020 and the subsequent virtual format in 2021 and 2022. Congress is the largest academic gathering in Canada, with at least 10,000 participants attending this year. The event was last hosted at York University in 2006. 

Congress 2023 provides a platform for critical conversations, including diverse voices and perspectives to create collaborations that help drive the future of post-secondary education. This year’s theme “Reckonings and Re-Imaginings” will guide the direction of discussions and knowledge sharing in presentations, panels, workshops and more.

Andrea Davis
Andrea Davis

“I am excited by this theme because it’s a call to reflection on where we (as scholars, activists, artists and thinkers) are and how we got here,” said York University Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Professor Andrea Davis, who is serving as academic convenor for Congress 2023, when the theme was announced. “Rather than simply centering the problems, this theme insists that we imagine otherwise – that we consider what a different set of possibilities might look like and that we come together collectively to create the kind of world we want to live in.” 

York faculty and scholars will contribute their humanities and social sciences research and expertise through more than 250 different events scheduled in a variety of programming streams, such as the Big Thinking Lecture Series, Career Corner, Black and racialized programming, Indigenous programming, scholarly presentations and more. 

Contributions come from all 11 York Faculties, three Organized Research Units, two divisions and other units, such as the Teaching Commons and York International. 

“We took the opportunity to apply York’s strengths as an institution that is known for supporting social justice and social responsibility. At Congress 2023, the University is playing an active role in igniting and sustaining positive change through scholarship, creative practice and conversations that generate new perspectives,” said Lisa Philipps, provost and vice-president academic.

Philipps is also a member of the Scholarly Planning Committee for Congress, which is comprised of York faculty, staff, graduate students and senior leadership, who together have helped to guide and shape the themes and programming for this year’s event through broad consultation with the York community. Learn more about the Scholarly Planning Committee here

York programming at Congress 2023 

The School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design will feature work from faculty and graduate students with topics exploring culturally relevant pedagogy, accessible tech for Canadian artists, film screenings and more. 

Diverse programming from the Faculty of Education – which contributes to more than 60 events – includes re-imagining teacher education, book launch events, the risks of queer lives during the pandemic, findings from a Black feminist qualitative study and more from faculty and graduate students. 

Both faculty and graduate students from the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change will participate and explore topics such as the intersectional feminist approach to gathering and analyzing stories that reconsider risk, and a look at ceremonies of mourning, remembrance and care in the context of violence and more.

Glendon College faculty members will consider the ascent of right-wing populism in Canada, the politics of refusal in the Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette novel Suzanne, and more. 

Research by graduate students will be the focus of contributions from the Faculty of Graduate Studies, with a variety of presentations on diverse topics, including the impact of the pandemic on intimate partner violence in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, a focus on mental health and the suicide of Black men, female activists and their relationships with their mothers, and more. 

From the Faculty of Health, faculty members will explore how academic nursing leaders addressed the complexities of sustaining quality nursing education programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, participate in a roundtable on transnational Black communities and overcoming epidemics and a panel on promising practices that support aging with equity. Faculty will also present research on Indian immigrant fatherhood in the perinatal period, the experiences of immigrant Pakistani youths, and Asian Canadian exclusionary experiences in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to research contributions, a graduate program assistant will perform at the Swag Stage.

Lassonde School of Engineering will have contributions from faculty and an undergraduate student that focuses on designing a more equitable science curricula and York’s Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom (C4), which will be presented in partnership with a student from the Schulich School of Business.

Knowledge sharing from the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies will come from undergraduate students, graduate students, teaching and research assistants and faculty, with participation in upwards of 80 different events at Congress. Some of the research will cover racial profiling among Canadian university professors of Chinese descent, re-imagining criminal justice, activism and inclusion, decolonizing transnational human rights engagements and partnerships in Africa, queer rural teacher activists and more. 

Osgoode Hall Law School faculty members and a visiting Fellow will present their research on girls and Young Women before the Cour du bienêtre social of Montréal, conflicting interpretations of women in Canada’s thalidomide tragedy and Indigenous laws and jurisdiction for addressing harm. 

Faculty members representing the Faculty of Science will share their research on geological fantasies, the stark effect, and offer perspectives during a roundtable on overcoming epidemics and the transnational Black communities’ response. 

Find more information about open programming events at Congress here: https://www.federationhss.ca/en/congress2023/york-programming.  

Mpox outbreak leads to stigmas, blame toward 2SLGBTQIAP+ community

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of monkeypox particles (teal) found within an infected cell (brown), cultured in the laboratory. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID

York University researchers have furthered their study of the global mpox virus by publishing a new paper on the dangerous stigmas the 2SLGBTQIAP+ community face as the outbreak continues.

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared mpox an international public health emergency on July 23, 2022, over 100 countries have been affected by cases. A month earlier, York Postdoctoral Fellow Nicola Bragazzi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics Jude Kong and Distinguished Research Professor Jianhong Wu contributed to that decision by leading critical research identifying symptoms in a paper called “Epidemiological trends and clinical features of the ongoing monkeypox epidemic.”

Since the outbreak of mpox, and the paper, research has found that the Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual and pansexual (2SLGBTQIAP+) community, has been heavily and disproportionately impacted. Concerned with the risk the community faces in being stigmatized and blamed for transmitting the virus, Bragazzi, Kong and Wu turned from studying the clinical impact of mpox, to studying its social impact. They wanted to learn just how significant the stigma for the 2SLGBTQIAP+ community had become, because marginalized and minority populations being blamed for spreading a disease, can increase hesitancy to seek help when symptoms emerge or impact mental health conditions.

The result is a new study, co-authored with York’s Zahra Movahedi Nia (postdoctoral researcher) and Professors Ali Asgary and Dr. James Orbinski, which used two forms of artificial intelligence-driven natural language processing – topic modelling and sentiment analysis – to assess relevant popular discussions on Twitter and Facebook, identifying stigmatization sources, their hot spots and their sentiments.

“The 2SLGBTQIAP+ is a hard-to-reach community and social networks can be a useful venue to sample from this community and collect relevant data,” says Bragazzi.

The researchers discovered that online mpox has become tightly linked to the 2SLGBTQIAP+ community, with the majority of sentiments negative. Out of the 10 topics related to mpox and 2SLGBTQIAP+, eight were directly focused on blaming the community for spreading mpox.

“This study shows that the 2SLGBTQIAP+ community is being widely stigmatized for spreading the mpox virus, which turns the community into a highly vulnerable population. As a result, people are discouraged from seeking help upon observing the symptoms and the prevalence of the virus increases. Such stigmatization broadens disparities, brings social isolation and increases mental health disorders,” says Kong. 

The academic quantification and proof of ongoing social stigmatization is meant to aid public health officials in determining the direction of policies, informing them with data-driven outcomes that can help counter stigma which, if it increases, can lead to lack of treatment, thereby making it more difficult to contain and control the mpox outbreak.

“Our work will enable health officials to identify hotspots, control fear and stop discrimination among the population,” says Wu.

C4 team receives teaching innovation award

Award stock image banner from pexels

Members of York University’s Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom (C4) team were awarded the 2023 D2L Innovation Award in Teaching and Learning from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE), which recognizes post-secondary collaborative teams for their innovative approaches to promoting student-centered teaching and learning.

C4, launched in 2019, enables students to work on real-world challenges with social impact, promoting team-based collaboration, advanced research and design, critical and strategic thinking, and more.

The award was bestowed on those associated with C4’s innovative approach to pan-university interdisciplinary experiential education, including:

  • Danielle Robinson, co-founder and academic co-lead of C4, as well as associate professor in the Department of Dance;
  • Franz Newland, co-founder and co-lead of C4, as well as associate professor of Space Engineering;
  • Rachelle Campigotto, classroom coordinator assistant for C4 and contract faculty in the Faculty of Education;
  • Dana Craig, Libraries liaison for C4 and director of student learning and academic success in the Libraries;
  • Danielle Dobney, team culture strategist of C4 and assistant professor in Kinesiology and the Athletic Therapy Certificate program;
  • Andrea Kalmin, curriculum lead, classroom coordinator for C4 and adjunct faculty in the Department of Social Science;
  • Alice Kim, scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) research lead for C4 and interim assistant program head for Psychology at the University of Guelph-Humber; and
  • Natasha May, Teaching Commons liaison for C4 and educational developer in York’s Teaching Commons.

The D2L Innovation Award is an international recognition, open to applicants from all countries. It evaluates and rewards innovations in pedagogical approaches, teaching methods, course design, curriculum development, assessment methods, and more. It is named after D2L, a cloud-based learning analytics platform.

Award recipients are invited to a retreat held the day of the pre-conference at STLHE’s Annual Conference. This retreat includes a facilitated session, lunch, and a social and learning excursion focused on innovation. At the conference they will be recognized at the Conference Awards Ceremony and receive a certificate in recognition of their work.

York collaborates on international post-pandemic recovery research

A young woman dons a mask to protect against the novel coronavirus FEATURED image for York library story
A young woman dons a mask to protect against the novel coronavirus FEATURED image for York library story

York University Associate Professor Claudia Chaufan will collaborate with a group of interdisciplinary researchers to investigate post-pandemic recovery and best practices for future global emergencies with a grant from the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF).

Claudia Chaufan
Claudia Chaufan

The $500,000 award was announced as part of the Government of Canada’s NFRF’s 2022 Special Calls stream, which aims to support emerging research as needed.

Chaufan, from the Faculty of Health, is a co-principal investigator on an interdisciplinary team of six researchers from across Canada, along with: Claus Rinner, Toronto Metropolitan University (principal investigator); and co-investigators Candice Chow, McMasters University; J. Christian Rangel, University of Ottawa; Elaine Wiersma, Lakehead University; and Wang, Yiwen, University of Toronto. The project is led by Toronto Metropolitan University.

The project’s team consists of researchers from across the globe, including co-applicant Andrea Valente of York’s Faculty of Education, as well as Canadian experts in governance, healthcare, law, media and communications, and international collaborators from Jamaica, Western Europe, Israel, Kenya and Uganda who specialize in behavioural sciences, economics, epidemiology and philosophy.

The research aims to examine the social and economic inequities amplified by COVID-19 on an international scale. Together, the researchers will look at how social cohesion and inclusivity can be strengthened through community engagement in decision-making with respect to future emergencies. They will also explore how governments can improve communication and build trust with communities.

According to the research team, this research contributes to achieving four United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs): UN SDG 3 Good Health and Wellbeing, by assessing to what extent a holistic view of public health informed the pandemic response; UN SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities, by assessing the impact of pandemic responses on social and health equity; UN SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, by identifying vulnerable communities, even in high-income countries; and UN SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, by examining to what extent the policy development process was transparent and able to ensure inclusivity and accountability.

The team’s research methods will include case studies, critical document analysis, discourse analysis and visualization, as well as oral histories and creative work to investigate operational consideration of the social determinants of health and value-based governance.

The project’s findings will help inform future policy on disaster management.

For more, visit https://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/funding-financement/nfrf-fnfr/special/2022/award_recipients-titulaires_subvention-eng.aspx.

Risk and Insurance Studies Centre receives $11M grant

Wildfire in the forest

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

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

Edward Furman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more at News @ York.

Student awarded prestigious nursing award

Award stock image banner from pexels

The Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN) awarded Leo Macawile the Excellence in Professional Nursing Practice at the Undergraduate Level Award. He is the first York University student to receive the honour.

The award – which recognizes academic success, kind and compassionate care, and positive leadership attributes – is the latest milestone in Macawile’s notable career. In May 2022, Macawile received the York University Deschamps Compassionate Nursing Prize for demonstrating talent in his field through kindness and compassion shown toward patients. Earlier this year, he received two Calumet and Stong College awards, the Olga Cirak Alumni Bursary Award and The Virginia Rock Award, for his exceptional academic ability and outstanding commitment to the school community.

Leo Macawile
Leo Macawile

Macawile has also distinguished himself as the current president of the Nursing Student Association of YorkU (NSAY), a role which he has used to promote the art and science of nursing, but also awareness around those within the field from the Asian diaspora.

In order to celebrate Asian Heritage Month in 2022, Macawile recruited Asian nursing students and professors to showcase, through video, how Canadians of Asian heritage have contributed to nursing.

This past November, Macawile also initiated Filipino Nurses Recognition Month, Canada’s first and largest student-led initiative to recognize the challenges and structural racism that Filipino nurses and nursing students face, which contribute to the underrepresentation of Filipinos in academic and leadership roles. Over 100 diverse students, nurses and professors across Canada engaged in a month-long event of seminars.

Among additional efforts to support nursing students and ensure their success, Macawile also started a program called Walk with Prof. which connects nursing students with faculty outside the classroom in a fun, interactive, collaborative and educational manner that provided mentorship as students asked for advice and guidance.

In its reasoning for honouring Macawile with an award, COUPN wrote, “He collaborates well with others, establishing a sense of connectedness, resourcefulness, purpose and academic culture among his peers. Leo is a strong advocate for others and the overall future of the nursing profession and takes every opportunity to participate in events that celebrate nursing, leadership and community.”

Faculty of Health targets anxiety with support from Beneva

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retooling Black Youth Anxiety
Godfred Boateng

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

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

Reducing Anxiety About HPV Tests
Catriona Buick
Catriona Buick

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

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

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

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

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

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

York professor knighted in Japan

Kyoto, Japan

Students pursuing studies in York University’s Kinesiology & Health Science program may have the opportunity to learn about karate-do from a knight.

Sachil Singh, assistant professor of physical culture and health technologies in datafied societies, recently earned recognition in Japan when he was honoured with a knighthood for his accomplishments in karate-do.

Sachil Singh performing a karate kata (sequence of techniques) called Bassai Dai
Sachil Singh performing a karate kata (sequence of techniques) called Bassai Dai

During an April 30 ceremony in Kyoto, Japan, Singh was knighted by the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (DNBK), an organization established in 1895 under the authority of the Japanese government, with the endorsement of the Japanese Royal Family, and received the rank of Fourth Dan in karate-do and the “Renshi” or “Polished Warrior” title.

“It was an incredibly moving experience,” says Singh, “not only because it allowed for a moment of pause as I reflected on my martial arts journey spanning 31 years, but also because the sword used for the knighthood belonged to Miyamoto Musashi.”

Musashi, he explains, lived in the 16th and 17th centuries and is one of the most legendary Samurai in Japanese history. “I can still feel the weight of the sword on my shoulder as I lowered myself on my right knee; it offers a reminder of my privilege and calling to preserve martial virtues, and promote values of equity, peace, mutual understanding, mutual prosperity and respect through martial arts training and education.” 

Among his other research and teaching responsibilities at York, Singh will teach a practicum course on karate-do in the Kinesiology program starting in Fall 2023 where his pedagogy will promote principles of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

The course promotes EDI, explains Singh, because its starting point is to show sensitivity to students’ self-reported positionalities. Additionally, by meeting each student where they are in terms of ability (mental strength, mobility, flexibility etc), the course embraces difference and is met with an approach of assessing students against themselves.

“Students are not competing with anyone but themselves since the goal is individual growth and development,” says Singh, who uses this approach as a springboard to promote EDI because it allows for diversity to dictate how each class runs.

Singh’s Japan trip also included an invitation to Meiji University (Tokyo) from the Japan Society for Information and Management (JSIM) where he delivered a research talk on artificial intelligence, datafication and racial discrimination in health care.

“York already enjoys a partnership with Meiji University, so I used this opportunity to build on those relations and foster research dialogue between the respective institutions,” said Singh.

Singh’s main areas of research are medical sociology, critical race studies and algorithmic inequality. As an interdisciplinary scholar, he works in these spaces to bring attention to how life chances are shaped by stereotypes and (mis)information about race and ethnicity. His work demonstrates how these problems can make their way into the medical field as “objective” or “scientific,” thereby raising concerns for patient care.

Singh has published on this research in the peer-reviewed journals Health and Social Science & Medicine, and has a forthcoming chapter in The Routledge International Handbook of Valuation and Society. He is also co-editor of the journal Big Data & Society.

He teaches in areas of socio-cultural history, identity politics, racial discrimination and surveillance. 

Meet York University’s latest commercialization Fellows

lightbulb idea innovation

By Corey Allen, senior manager, research communications

Four budding researchers completed York University’s Commercialization Fellowship program – now in its second year – at the end of April.  

The Commercialization Fellowship program is funded by the innovation arm of the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation at York. The program runs from January to April and provides graduate students and postdoctoral Fellows support and assistance to develop their academic research into a commercially viable product.   

The Fellows receive $7,500 as stipend, with a quarter of the funds earmarked for research activities like prototype testing, proof of concept projects, or validation studies. They also participate in workshops and seminars that focus on various topics related to commercialization, including design thinking, intellectual property, licensing, and partnerships. Additionally, Fellows work at and receive advice on patent searching, industry outreach, and pitching.  

“The fellowship provides a valuable opportunity to support and train the next generation of innovators and supports them on their entrepreneurial journey,” said Suraj Shah, associate director, commercialization and strategic partnerships.  

Aspire spoke with the four Fellows about the fellowship program and their products.

Kajanan Kanathipan
Kajanan Kanathipan

Kajanan Kanathipan, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Project title: Modular single-stage step-up photovoltaic (PV) converter with integrated power balancing feature 

Kanathipan’s doctoral research focuses on the development of new extraction techniques for renewable energy, particularly solar power. Solar energy can be tricky to harness for power due to varying atmospheric conditions, like cloud cover.  

Kanathipan is determined to find a way to circumvent this issue and build a device that not only streamlines the conversion process, but can maximize power extraction under all operating conditions. 

Solar energy starts with sunlight, which is made up of photons. Photovoltaic (PV) panels convert the sunlight into electrical currents. This is then converted to electricity that supplies power for machines, homes and buildings to run on. It’s a two-step process involving different converters. 

Kanathipan’s idea would reduce the power conversion to a single step, using the same converter. This converter would also be able to better balance and store power from the PV panels to not stress or drain one converter more than the others.  

The invention would allow the entire conversion system to safely operate under different weather conditions. This would reduce equipment costs and produce a greater amount of energy for PV plants.  

“We are looking to design and control photovoltaic conversion well enough that it provides an innovative solution in the solar technology industry,” says Kanathipan, who works out of the Advanced Power Electronics Laboratory for Sustainable Energy Research (PELSER) and is supervised by John Lam, associate professor at the Lassonde School of Engineering.  

Kanathipan says the fellowship program has provided education and training not found in the lab, like the workshops on how to protect your intellectual property, build business partnerships, or how to determine a potential customer.   

Right now, Kanathipan is working on a scaled down prototype, a key component of his dissertation.   

Kanathipan is a PhD student in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Lassonde School of Engineering.

Stephanie Cheung
Stephanie Cheung

Stephanie Cheung, Faculty of Education
Project title: VoteBetter 

Cheung created the VoteBetter app, a SaaS (software as a service) product, which aims to drive civic engagement in student politics. The application operates as a virtual election space for post-secondary student constituents, candidates and incumbents, and provides a central source for locating, contributing to and comparing campaign priorities. Users can view candidates’ profiles, submit questions, and view, rank and comment on crowd-sourced campus issues. Once the election is over, the app tracks the campaign promises of elected representatives and serves as a community forum.  

Under the supervision of Natalia Balyasnikova, assistant professor in the Faculty of Education, Cheung’s master’s research examines contemporary trends in political participation on diverse campuses in the Greater Toronto Area and explores how undergraduate student election voter engagement and turnout might be improved. The idea for the app was inspired by her research and Cheung’s own experience in student politics, in addition to a former role as a public servant with the provincial government.  

“VoteBetter can be used as a tool for students to deepen dialogue and focus more on the substantive issues their communities face than surface-level politics,” Cheung says. “Student groups can wield hefty budgets and their constituents deserve well-informed leaders who understand pertinent issues and are equipped to pursue sustainable change.”  

Cheung says the fellowship program has offered structure and guidance as she works through her research and development phase. She says she is interested in the commercialization of her master’s research not for profit, but to extend the impact of her academic work.   

“I am often asking myself how research can live off the page,” she says. “And I’m interested in my work facilitating opportunities for co-constructing knowledge and bridging theory to practice.”  

Currently, Cheung’s VoteBetter app is being validated with end users.  

Cheung is a part-time master’s student in the Faculty of Education and full-time staff at York where she works as manager, student success and stakeholder engagement at Calumet and Stong Colleges in the Faculty of Health.

Mehran Sepah Mansoor
Mehran Sepah Mansoor

Mehran Sepah Mansoor, Mechanical Engineering
Project title: A method of fabricating one-dimensional photonic crystal optical filters  

Mansoor works out of York University’s Advanced Materials for Sustainable Energy Technologies Laboratory. His research at the AM-SET Lab has led to him inventing a novel fabrication method for a photonic crystal optical filter, which can transmit sunlight over a broad range of wavelengths.  

Mansoor, under the supervision of AM-SET Lab’s founder Paul G. O’Brian at the Lassonde School of Engineering, believes the invention could have several applications, but it could be particularly useful to improve thermal energy storage systems, particularly those that store solar thermal energy.   

Thermal energy storage involves preventing losses via heat conduction, convection, and radiation. Mansoor’s photonic crystal filter more effectively controls solar radiation and thermal losses simultaneously and can transmit sunlight to be absorbed and converted to heat in a thermal storage medium.  

The filter can also reflect radiative heat from the medium, which has longer wavelengths than sunlight, minimizing heat losses. The stored energy can then act as a power source later when sunlight is no longer available.  

“The innovation is the way the materials in the photonic crystal filters have been fabricated and the treatment applied to them to achieve the optical properties needed to refract or bend light in a desired manner, as well as the way we have been able to stack all of the materials together,” said Mansoor. “Our method eliminates unwanted energy absorption in the photonic crystal while improving the energy transmission of the filter.”  

Mansoor cites the program’s design thinking workshop as a highlight of his time as a Fellow. He says the fellowship also provided him a greater understanding of how to patent technology. This invention marks his first patent.  

So far, Mansoor has completed simulations of the invention and has some preliminary results. He is in the early stages of creating a prototype.  

Mansoor is a second-year master’s student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Lassonde School of Engineering.

Abbas Panahi
Abbas Panahi

Abbas Panahi, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Project title: A novel portable platform based on field-effect transistor integrated with microfluidics for biosensing applications 

Panahi’s academic work studying biosensors – a device to detect and target molecules – grew stronger after a PhD internship at Mitacs. Now in his fourth year as a PhD student and under the supervision of Professor Ebrahim Ghafar-Zadeh at the Lassonde School of Engineering, Panahi has invented a new biosensing platform that can detect disease.  

The platform uses sensor technology that can be used on a portable device, like a smartphone, to analyze the specific concentration of RNA or any biomarker in a saliva sample.   

“This technology has huge potential for medical application,” Panahi says. “The device could be used in hospitals for non-expert users to run clinical tests and help detect viruses quickly and easily.”  

The portable sensor was developed entirely at York University’s Biologically Inspired Sensors and Actuators (BioSA) Laboratory – from the testing and modelling, to all the engineering – by a team of students and research associates under the direction, guidance and conceptualization of Ghafar-Zadeh. The development process involved a variety of tasks, including in-house testing, modelling and engineering design. 

For Panahi, the fellowship program gave him a complete education for what it takes to start a science-based venture. He says the fellowship allowed him to fully consider every aspect of the commercialization process and develop a strong business model. He also says the program’s teachings on how to match the technology with market needs was invaluable.  

Currently, Panahi is working on technology market matching, and readying the device to undergo clinical tests in the next year.   

Panahi is a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Lassonde School of Engineering.