Dahdaleh grad students showcase global health research

Global health

Four accomplished graduate scholars from York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research (DIGHR) will share details of their research projects, as well as insights on the progress of their research journeys, at the fourth annual Global Health Graduate Scholars Symposium on Dec. 13.

Taking place at the Keele Campus, Dahdaleh Global Health Graduate Scholarship students Eyram Agbe, Caroline Duncan, Alexandra Scott and Nawang Yanga will offer an overview of the groundbreaking research they are undertaking in line with DIGHR’s three themes: planetary health, global health and humanitarianism, and global health foresighting.

The Dahdaleh Global Health Graduate Scholarship was created to attract exceptional incoming and continuing domestic and international graduate research students to DIGHR. The scholarship is granted annually to graduate students who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement in global health research.

This year’s presentations are:

Digital Deprivation: COVID-19, Education, and Teacher Health in Ghana – Eyram Agbe
Agbe is a master’s student in the Development Studies program. Her research seeks to understand the diverse psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 on basic school teachers in Accra, Ghana, and how these factors affect their ability to support new curriculum implementation as schools have returned to in-person classes. This study seeks to centre the critical role that social vulnerability plays in education; specifically, how teachers’ health outcomes are situated within contentions over technopolitical visions by stakeholders.

Drinking Water Provision in the Canadian Arctic: Current and Future Challenges and Emerging Opportunities – Caroline Duncan
Duncan is a PhD candidate at the Lassonde School of Engineering. Her research seeks to understand the complex factors that affect the quality and accessibility of drinking water in the Arctic using an interdisciplinary and participatory approach. Duncan works closely with the Municipality of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, collaborating with community members, government and non-governmental organization stakeholders involved with drinking water from source to tap to develop a model to test treatment, as well as work towards policy interventions to optimize drinking water safety.

The Myth of “Good Enough”: Law, Engineering, and Autonomous Weapons Systems – Alexandra Scott
Scott is a PhD student, Dahdaleh Global Health Graduate Scholar and Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellow at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Her work explores the development and deployment of autonomous weapon systems (also known as “killer robots”) under international law and the role that engineers play in both.

TB in Tibetan Refugee Settlements in India: What We Know and What Is Missing – Nawang Yanga
Yanga is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Health. Her dissertation focuses on the lived experiences of Tibetan refugees with tuberculosis (TB) in Indian settlements. This is greatly motivated by her own experiences with TB and by the sheer lack of literature in this community, despite having some of the highest TB incidence rates globally. The aim of her project is to introduce a social perspective to TB discourse by highlighting the connections between social conditions and TB that are unique to Tibetan refugees in India.

Visit the event page to register and attend: yorku.ca/dighr/events/4th-annual-global-health-graduate-scholars-symposium.

The graduate students’ research is funded by the Dahdaleh Global Health Graduate Scholarship. The 2024 competition is currently accepting applications. To learn more about the eligibility criteria and application process, visit the scholarships page: yorku.ca/dighr/scholarship.

York students engaged in heart, brain research earn inaugural award

medical hospital research brain black doctor

Four York University students were recognized with an inaugural award for Black scholars – an initiative by the Heart & Stroke Foundation, Brain Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health (CIHR-ICRH) – for their work and research in heart and brain health.

The Personnel Awards for Black Scholars were launched earlier in 2023 with the intent of promoting Black representation and inclusivity within the heart and/or brain health research community.

“These awards will help enable equitable and accessible treatment and care for heart disease and stroke for everyone in Canada,” said Doug Roth, chief executive officer of Heart & Stroke, in the announcement.

The multi-year awards seek to financially support 12 master’s students for up to two years and seven doctoral students for up to three years. The awards aim to enable students to focus on their studies, undertake a program of research and engage with mentors as part of their training and development.

The recipients from York University are:

Patrick Hewan

A psychology master’s student, Hewan’s work focuses on cognition and brain function in older adulthood. Among his accomplishments are a Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada Undergraduate Research Award and, most recently, an oral presentation award at this year’s Faculty of Science annual undergraduate summer research conference for a talk titled “Microstructural integrity of the Locus Coeruleus is related to decision-making in older adults.”

Toluwanimi Faromika

Faromika is a psychology master’s student interested in cognitive psychology across populations – including infants and seniors, as well those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and more. Her current research will explore spatial memory and the factors that can impede our ability to navigate the world. In addition to her academic work, she is also the host of “The BrainCore Podcast,” which explores the latest psychology and neuroscience research.

CeAnn Marks

A psychology and neuroscience graduate student, Marks’s work looks to advance mental health knowledge through research on traumatic brain injuries, mood disorders and trauma. Her current research includes studying sex differences in concussion recovery and the impact of emotional trauma on motor performance. Among her accomplishments are earning the BIPOC Award in Medical Science and Medicine Biotechnology earlier this year.

Ngozi Iroanyah

A PhD student in health policy and equity studies, Iroanyah’s research centres on the implications of dementia policy on the experiences of racialized ethnocultural diverse seniors in Canada. Her current thesis explores the experience of racialized immigrant seniors with Ontario’s dementia strategy to identify gaps in service delivery and care models. Additionally, Iroanyah is currently manager of diversity and community partnerships at the Alzheimer Society of Canada and has over 15 years of experience in health care in both Canada and abroad, in the fields of health research and administration – including having worked for the Public Agency of Canada in the Dementia Policy Unit.

Further information about the award can be found here: heartandstroke.ca/what-we-do/media-centre/news-releases/19-black-scholars-in-canada-to-receive-inaugural-funding-awards.

AMS Healthcare awards fund York research on history of medicine

Crop close up Indian woman doctor in white uniform with stethoscope taking notes, using laptop, writing in medical journal

Earlier this month, Canadian charitable organization AMS Healthcare announced two York University scholars as recipients of its 2023 History of Healthcare Awards Program: Jody Hodgins, a PhD candidate in the Department of History; and Kenton Kroker, an associate professor in the Department of Social Science, both in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

The AMS History of Healthcare Awards Program promotes scholarship, teaching and public interest in the history of health care, disease and medicine. Health-care professionals, students and researchers can apply for three types of awards: postdoctoral fellowships of $45,000, doctoral research awards of $25,000 and project grants of up to $10,000. The program aspires to convene networks, develop leaders and fund crucial activities in medical history, health-care research, education and clinical practice.

Hodgins and Kroker are two of the eleven 2023 award recipients selected by an expert review panel. These outstanding scholars will act as leaders to enhance the impact and value of history of health-care research in Canada and beyond and help shape the future of Canadian health care.

Jody Hodgins

Jody Hodgins
Jody Hodgins

Hodgins received the AMS History of Healthcare Doctoral Research Award, worth $25,000, for her project titled “Meeting Demands for Animal Healthcare: Veterinary Medicine in Rural Southern Ontario, 1862-1939,” which will explore the interdependence between animal, human and environmental health to show advancements in public health and the role veterinary medicine had in shaping our current understanding of modern medicine and health-care practices. 

“I am grateful to AMS Healthcare for their support of the history of medicine community and honoured to receive this award alongside such company,” she said.

Hodgins will examine four key developments that occurred between 1862, marking the establishment of the Ontario Veterinary College, and 1939: the production of animal health knowledge in popular sources; the need for veterinary intervention with unrecognizable diseases that could transfer from animals to humans; the popularity of quack medicine; and the technological advancements available with the rise of professionalization.

“I am thankful for this opportunity and the support of my supervisor, Sean Kheraj, and committee members Jennifer Bonnell and Colin Coates, whose invaluable guidance will help me to contribute a history of veterinary medicine that offers a better understanding of how people living in rural communities managed health before professional veterinarians were quickly available and affordable in rural environments,” she said.

Kenton Kroker

Kenton Kroker
Kenton Kroker

Kroker received the AMS History of Healthcare Project Grant, worth $20,000, for his historical study titled “Innovation, Expertise, and Equity: Creating Sleep Medicine within Canada’s Universal Health Care System, 1970 – 2000.” Kroker asks what effects Canada’s evolving system of universal health care had on sleep medicine since 1970.

“I’m thrilled to use this grant money to hire a Science and Technology Studies doctoral student (Hana Holubec) to help me examine the evolution of sleep medicine in Canada,” he said.

Drawing inspiration for his study from his late colleague Professor Gina Feldberg, who called for more comparative studies to better understand how health care has unfolded differently in Canada and the U.S., Kroker has been fascinated by the delicate balance Canadians try to execute in creating an accessible health-care system that also facilitates innovation.

“Medical interest in sleep appeared – almost out of nowhere – simultaneous with the development of Canada’s universal health-care system,” he explained, “so I started to wonder whether a close historical study of this field might reveal the ways in which the Canadian model of health-care provision affected the development of this new medical sub-specialty.”

To execute his project, Kroker will combine personal interviews of Canadian sleep medicine researchers and practitioners with a historical analysis of published biomedical literature to help reveal the ways Canada’s universal health-care system impacted technological innovation, patient care, and professional status and structure in an emerging field of medical expertise.

“The results,” he said, “will illustrate the complex ways that equitable access and biomedical innovation have interacted in the recent past. It might also help us better understand the benefits and drawbacks of our current system of health-care provision – and perhaps even improve it.”

Applications for the 2024 AMS History of Healthcare Awards will open on Jan. 8, 2024, with over $250,000 in funding available. For more information, visit the program website

York alum earns Governor General’s Literary Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Provostial fellowships support scholars from marginalized groups

open book with glasses and pen

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

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

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

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

Doug Anderson

Doug Anderson
Doug Anderson

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

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

Jean de Dieu Uwisengeyimana

Jean de Dieu Uwisengeyimana
Jean de Dieu Uwisengeyimana

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

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

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

Symposium explores planetary health, planetary crises

Climate change ecololgy global warming

The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research at York University will host a symposium to explore how human activity is pushing ecological limits to a breaking point, and climate change is a fundamental threat to human life.

Taking place on Nov. 24 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., both in person at the Keele Campus and online, the Planetary Health for a Planetary Emergency symposium aims to bring together scholars from the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research and across York University who work at the intersection of climate change and health, to discuss the potentials of planetary health as a driver of just climate action.

This event will also launch the Dahdaleh Institute Planetary Health Research Council which supports a collaborative research community of faculty, postdoctoral Fellows and graduate students committed to planetary health research at York University and beyond. 

The event draws attention to the need for clear associations between climate change and health, and to develop critical problem-solving interventions and advocate for climate action that advances well-being for all. The symposium will explore questions, such as: How do we do this while holding a critical view of the systems and structures which have led us into this climate catastrophe, including the ideologies of colonialism and capitalism that underpin the modern era? How do we advance effective and equitable solutions for planetary health that work against these systems and structures instead of upholding them?

The day’s agenda will include panel discussions with three themes featuring guest speakers.

Water: This panel explores the role water plays at the confluence of environmental and human health. Speakers will discuss efforts to support vital biological and social functions of water in the face of our rapidly changing climate and how such efforts might be positioned to work towards more just, sustainable and integrated water management.

Speaking on the topic of water will be: Deborah McGregor, a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice and a professor cross-appointed with Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Environment & Urban Change at York University; Sapna Sharma, an associate professor in the Department of Biology at York University and York Research Chair in Global Change Biology; and Byomkesh Talukder, an assistant professor at the Department of Global Health at Florida International University. Moderating this panel will be Caroline Diana Duncan, a PhD candidate in civil engineering at York with a strong focus on optimizing drinking water in the Arctic using participatory approaches to system dynamics modelling.

Land: This panel examines the role of land in achieving planetary health, taking a wide view across issues of food security, extractivism, urbanization and conservation. This includes examples of how land is inherently interconnected with people and the environment and how access to land and tenure rights are themselves a determinant of human and environmental health.

Discussion on topics related to land will be led by: Dayna N. Scott, an associate professor and York Research Chair in Environmental Law & Justice with Osgoode Hall Law School at York University where she is also cross appointed with the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change; James Stinson, a postdoctoral Fellow in Planetary Health Education at York University, cross appointed to the Faculty of Education and the Dahdaleh Institute of Global Health Research; Raphael Aguiar, a PhD candidate in the Health Policy and Equity program at York University and a Dahdaleh Global Health Graduate Scholar; and Sarah Rotz, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change. This panel will be moderated by Nilanjana (Nell) Ganguli, a PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change.

Air: This last panel addresses how air is brought into our approaches to planetary health, drawing together a range of fields related to emissions reduction, human well-being, air pollution and climate adaptation. Speakers will consider how air pollution disproportionately impacts low income and marginalized populations as well as the climate policy synergies of tackling air pollution that both damages health and impairs ecosystems.

Participating in this discussion are: Cora Young, an associate professor and the Rogers Chair in Chemistry at York University; Eric B. Kennedy, an associate professor and area coordinator of the Disaster and Emergency Management program at York University; and Jean-Thomas Tremblay, an assistant professor of environmental humanities at York University. Moderating this panel will be Hillary Birch, a PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change at York University, where she is a SSHRC doctoral Fellow.

For more information, or to register, visit the event webpage.

Event postponed: Virtual lecture uncovers potential of digital humanities

Zoom Featured

Update: New information after publication of this article indicates the Nov. 7 virtual lecture has been postponed. Continue to read YFile for further updates on this event.

The 2023 Ioan Davies Memorial Lecture, titled “The Promise of Postcolonial Digital Humanities,” will be given by Roopika Risam, an associate professor of film and media studies and comparative literature at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. The virtual lecture will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 1:30 p.m. via Zoom.

Roopika Risam
Roopika Risam

Despite the immense promise of digital humanities, the material circumstances of humanities knowledge production have delimited the scholarly interventions it makes possible. In this talk, Risam will offer her theoretical and methodological approach to more fully realizing the potential of digital humanities and will discuss projects she and her collaborators have designed to put the theories and methods of post-colonial digital humanities into practice.

During the event, the Ioan Davies Awards for outstanding scholarship will be presented by Diane Davies, wife of the late Ioan.

2023 Ioan Davies Memorial Lecture poster

Risam’s research interests lie at the intersections of post-colonial and African diaspora studies, critical university studies and digital humanities. Her work in digital humanities has been supported by over $4.3 million in grants. Her first monograph, New Digital Worlds: Postcolonial Digital Humanities in Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy, was published by Northwestern University Press. She is the co-editor of multiple volumes, including Intersectionality in Digital Humanities (Arc Humanities Press, 2019) and South Asian Digital Humanities: Postcolonial Mediations Across Technology’s Cultural Canon (Routledge, 2020), and the recently published Anti-Racist Community Engagement: Principles and Practices (Campus Compact/Stylus), which has been awarded the International Association of Service Learning and Community Engagement’s 2023 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award.

The Ioan Davies Memorial Lecture is an annual event at York University, sponsored by York’s Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, that brings a major intellectual figure in the areas of critical and cultural studies to York for a public lecture. It was initiated in 2002 to honour the memory of the late Ioan Davies, a professor of sociology at York, with a lecture that engages the concerns of his very diverse scholarship. The event has been featured on TVO’s “Big Ideas” television series, and previous lecturers have included Ian Hacking, Terry Eagleton, Michael Hardt and Robin Kelley.

All are welcome to attend this virtual event. Registration is required.

Grad students invited to apply for global health scholarship program

Earth at night was holding in human hands. Earth day. Energy saving concept, Elements of this image furnished by NASA

The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research at York University is accepting applications for the 2024 Dahdaleh Global Health Graduate Scholarship program.

The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research is committed to achieving equity, excellence and effectiveness in global health research in the following three core themes: planetary health, global health and humanitarianism, and global health foresighting. Applications are welcome from incoming and continuing domestic and international graduate students who would like to contribute to York University’s rapidly growing global health research community.

The awarded amount for each individual student will range from $5,000 to $25,000 based on the availability of funds and both the strength and needs of applicants. In addition to the monetary award, recipients will have access to Dahdaleh Institute resources, including collegial workspaces and the opportunity to present and lead seminars with members of the institute’s research community.

The Dahdaleh Institute has supported many global health researchers and their critical research projects through this scholarship program. To learn more about the eligibility criteria and application process, visit the scholarships page.

To apply, submit an application here.

The application deadline is Friday, Jan. 12, 2024 at 11:59 p.m.

Lassonde students explore the stratosphere

high altitude balloon

Student researchers, supervised by professors Regina Lee and Jinjun Shan in the Department of Earth & Space Science & Engineering at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, launched and tested new space technologies into the stratosphere as part of the Strato-Science 2023 campaign, which provides post-secondary students with opportunities to design, build and test small payloads aboard high-altitude balloon systems.

The stratosphere – not quite as distant as outer space, but much higher than airplane-cruising altitude – is a layer of the Earth’s atmosphere situated in the perfect area to deploy space instruments and technologies, test their function and collect useful information.

The two payloads launched by Lassonde students were lifted off from the Timmins Stratospheric Balloon Base in northeastern Ontario during two different early-morning flights, and returned a collection of data and information to undergo analysis.

The two projects, and their experiential impact, were:

Resident Space Object Near-space Astrometric Research (RSOnar) v2

Professor Regina Lee and her students involved in the RSOnar v2 project
Professor Regina Lee and her students involved in the RSOnar v2 project.

Space is occupied by various satellites, rockets and debris known as resident space objects (RSOs), some of which are inactive or broken and can overcrowd space environments or interfere with space missions and assets. By tracking and monitoring RSOs through the practice of space situational awareness (SSA), scientists can use collected data to inform RSO removal and help establish sustainable space environments.

Joining space surveillance efforts, RSOnar v2, a CubeSat developed by a large team of undergraduate and graduate students in Lee’s Nanosatellite Research Lab, was launched up to the stratosphere to test its SSA abilities. Equipped with four independent imaging systems, RSOnar v2 was propelled to a cruising altitude of 37 kilometres, where it surveyed the stars and captured images of satellites and space debris as they passed by, using a dual-purpose star tracker concept.

“We collected a lot of data during this space mission and are now working on processing the images we obtained from the flight,” says Randa Qashoa, RSOnar v2 project manager and PhD candidate in earth and space science. “The images will be used by many members of the research team to test and verify our algorithms, including RSO detection and attitude determination. We also received a lot of valuable information on the impact of changing camera parameters to enhance the quality of resulting RSO images. This was a large leap forward in proving the dual-purpose star tracker concept for future space missions.”

In addition, this mission served as an important experiential learning opportunity for all students involved, promoting teamwork, critical thinking and skill building.

“As project manager, I learned many skills throughout this mission, from planning to operations,” says Qashoa. “My coding skills were improved through testing and debugging various components and I also developed my soft skills like team building and communication. The experience I gained from this mission was invaluable to my personal growth.”

Miniature Imaging Fabry-Perot Spectrometer (MIFPS)

Professor Jinjun Shan and his students involved in the MIFPS project
Professor Jinjun Shan and his students involved in the MIFPS project.

Supervised by Shan’s Spacecraft Dynamics Control and Navigation (SDCN) Lab, a team of student researchers ranging from the undergraduate to postdoctoral level developed the scientific instrument called the Miniature Imaging Fabry-Perot Spectrometer (MIFPS) to take accurate, high-resolution measurements of the molecular oxygen atmospheric band. These measurements provide useful information on various parameters that can help improve understanding of cloud and aerosol properties and inform solutions for climate and air quality concerns.

In preparation for its voyage above the clouds, MIFPS underwent extensive calibration and control tests to ensure the instrument demonstrated greater function than its predecessor, which was tested during a stratospheric balloon launch in 2017. Specifically, the team aimed to improve the finesse of MIFPS, a parameter used to define the accuracy of measurements.

“Our payload was launched successfully into the stratosphere, and we were able to acquire some data,” says Ingredy Gabriela Gomes Carmo, a master of science candidate in space engineering. “We also managed to establish successful wireless communication with our payload during the launch. This was a great opportunity for me to work on a high-profile project with an amazing team. Before joining this project, I had no knowledge of Fabry-Perot Spectrometers, piezoelectric actuators and the system optics involved, but I now have a better understanding of how these systems work. I also gained understanding on how space missions are designed and had the opportunity to work closely with personnel from the Canadian Space Agency and Centre National d’Études Spatiales.”

In addition to data acquisition, the research team successfully reached their goal of increasing the MIFPS finesse to meet the measurement requirements. The next steps for the SDCNLab are to fix the hardware issues encountered during the flight and re-fly the instrument. The team also hopes to implement new controllers to improve the instrument performance for future missions.

VR, immersive teaching strengthens York’s partnership with Bauhaus

child using virtual reality goggles

By Elaine Smith

The 20-year institutional partnership between York University and the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in Germany has been re-energized by a recent collaboration on advancing immersive teaching through gamification and virtual reality (VR).

When researchers at Bauhaus wanted to share their work in immersive, multi-user VR with colleagues outside of Germany earlier this year, they turned to York University, an institutional partner for more than 20 years.

Jadidi with VR
Mojgan Jadidi with VR equipment.

Mojgan Jadidi, an associate professor of civil engineering who works with extended reality (XR) tools in her GeoVA Lab, was intrigued when teaching and learning colleagues at the Lassonde School of Engineering referred the inquiry to her, given her own work with VR. She invited Anton Lammert and Tony Zöppig, researchers working for the head of the Virtual Reality and Visualization Research Group at Bauhaus, to spend a week at York and present a public workshop focused on immersive teaching and virtual reality.

“We discussed different educational applications for immersive, multi-user virtual reality,” said Lammert. “We focused on lecture scenarios, as well as guided tour scenarios, and discussed how immersive recordings (recordings of all interactions that happened in virtual reality) could be used for research and educational purposes.”

The discussion led several interested undergraduate students to approach Jadidi afterward and, as a result, she has recruited new research assistants. At the same time, the Bauhaus researchers also made some new connections at York and revitalized their relationship with York International.

Outside of the lecture, the German team spent time collaborating and exchanging ideas with Jadidi’s lab team. “The visit was a stepping stone for broader collaboration between our labs,” said Jadidi. “We’re aiming to implement their algorithm and concepts in game development to enhance our games for multi-players. There was a lot of knowledge exchanged; they are teaching VR using a VR platform and I teach engineering through VR, so this enriches us both.

“Researchers from other universities bring a different mindset with them, and it re-energizes our students and faculty.”

The new connection prompted Jadidi to encourage one of her research assistants, Alexandro Di Nunzio, to apply for a scholarship to study at Bauhaus this fall, so he’s preparing to leave for Weimar, Germany in September.

Di Nunzio, who is also a master’s candidate in digital media, met the visiting researchers and was impressed by their work.

“Once I met them, I became interested in their work on multi-player VR applications,” said Di Nunzio, “and then I learned that they’re teaching a class about developing virtual reality applications using their multi-player VR framework. We did a little work together while they were here, and when they voiced interest in having me come to Bauhaus, I hastily applied for the scholarship.”

Di Nunzio will study at Bauhaus from October to February, taking the course taught by Lammert and Zöppig, and will incorporate his new knowledge into his master’s research project. He is working on finding a way to implement his current research on real-time audio analysis and music visualization into a multi-player virtual reality setting.

“My main goal while abroad is to become very familiar with VR development,” he said.

Jadidi is pleased that Di Nunzio is taking advantage of an existing partnership – which epitomizes York University’s Internationalization and Global Engagement Strategy – to enhance his own skills and knowledge, as is Lammert.

“The framework exists, so why not use it?” Jadidi said.

Lammert agreed. “Through this exchange, we hope that the student exchange between our two universities will be strengthened,” he said.