Funding supports York project to advance gender equality in pandemic recovery

Serious Mature Women

A project out of York University that will advance gender equality in the social and economic response to COVID-19 is one of 237 projects to receive funding under Women and Gender Equality Canada’s $100-million Feminist Response and Recovery Fund.

“Creating Space: Precarious Status Women Leading Local Pandemic Responses” is a collaborative, two-year project that brings together five organized research units (ORUs) and six researchers representing five York Faculties, as well as 10 partners, working on issues of equity, diversity and inclusion to advance a feminist response to the impacts of COVID-19 through systemic change.

The project was awarded $667,609 and aims to centre precarious status women’s experiences to support self-determination and accelerate systemic change to reduce gender-based violence, promote workplace health and safety and increase economic security.

Associate Vice-President Research Jennifer Hyndman says the successful application was made possible through a groundbreaking collaborative effort. “Such collaboration across Faculties, schools, and disciplinary boundaries is unprecedented among the ORUs at York,” she said.

The community-based project will be led by Professor Luann Good Gingrich (director, Global Labour Research Centre; Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies) and Professor Heidi Matthews (Osgoode Hall Law School), the project’s co-principal investigators, along with five research directors: Professor Angele Alook (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies); Professor Elaine Coburn (director, Centre for Feminist Research; International Studies at Glendon Campus); Professor Deborah McGregor (director, Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Languages; Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice; Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change/Osgoode Hall Law School); Professor Gertrude Mianda (director, Harriet Tubman Institute; Gender & Women’s Studies at Glendon Campus); and Professor Yu-Zhi Joel Ong (director, Sensorium: Centre for Digital Art & Technology; School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design).

“Our project will take advantage of this unprecedented moment of significant appetite for new ways of thinking and living together that are more just and sustainable,” said Matthews. “As devastating as the pandemic has been for women and gender-diverse individuals, particularly those from Indigenous nations and racialized communities, it has also pried open space to dismantle the otherwise rigid status quo structures that work to marginalize these groups.”

Logos for the organized research units: The Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diaspora; the Jack & Maie Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security; the Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts and Technology; the Global Labour Research Centre; and the Centre for Feminist Research
The ORUs supporting the project include (top to bottom, left to right): The Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diaspora; the Jack & Maie Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security; the Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts and Technology; the Global Labour Research Centre; and the Centre for Feminist Research

“Creating Space” involves six York ORUs – the Centre for Feminist Research, the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Languages, the Global Labour Research Centre, the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security, the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and Its Diasporas, and Sensorium: Centre for Digital Art and Technology – and 10 community partners representing female temporary foreign workers, asylum seekers, Indigenous women and undocumented frontline workers: ACORN Canada; Canadian Caribbean Art Stars Inc.; BC Employment Standards Coalition; Black Creek Community Health Centre; Feminist Alliance for International Action Canada (FAFIA); Kashe Dance; Migrant Resource Centre Canada; Nail Salon Workers Project; the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres; and The Ajumose Mentorship and Oversight Group of Ontario (Tamogo) Foundation. The project will also be supported by its international human rights law collaborator, the Global Legal Action Network.

The multidisciplinary team brings together expertise in labour, digital arts, international law and human rights, Indigenous legal traditions and knowledges, feminist and Indigenous methodologies, and migration and Black diaspora studies.

“We are committed to a collaborative approach that emphasizes relationships and mutual learning, and opening space for creativity and innovation to reimagine the legal and economic systems that create status insecurity for many women in Canada,” said Good Gingrich.

Funding for this project highlights York’s efforts in working to support gender equality during the COVID-19 recovery. Sara Slinn, associate dean research and institutional relations at Osgoode Hall Law School, said “Osgoode is very proud to be involved in this timely and important project.”

LA&PS associate dean research and graduate studies, Ravi de Costa, said the grant is a testament to the strength of social science and humanities research at York – not only in LA&PS, but across the University. He commended Good Gingrich and Matthews for putting together a “superb” group of researchers from five faculties.

“The research they will do in this project will provide a critical and largely missing understanding of the effects of the pandemic on some of the most marginalized members of society.”

The project will:

  • design collective, autonomy-focused, and locally rooted strategies to address economic insecurity, frontline workplace safety and systemic gender-based violence
  • launch a new human rights initiative to devise innovative legal arguments that disrupt dominant legal paradigms by supporting Indigenous-led self-determination
  • create a participatory, experimental multimedia digital framework to shift the public conversation and accelerate systemic change around gender and status precarity.

Good Gingrich and Matthews say they anticipate cross-Canada impact. Researchers and graduate students contributing to the project will work with partner organizations to build capacity and support mutual knowledge exchange. This work will shape transformative policy, innovative and critical strategies for legal intervention, and change the conversation on a national level.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Dec. 1, 2021.

Announcing the winners of the 2020 President’s Staff Recognition Awards

Image announcing Awards

La version française suit la version anglaise.

The York University Staff Recognition Awards are an opportunity to join President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton in acknowledging staff members who have gone above and beyond over the past year to support the success and well-being of the York community and advance the University’s vision, mission and values.

Rhonda L. Lenton
Rhonda L. Lenton

“The pandemic has shown us what is possible when we come together in support of our students and the communities we serve,” said Lenton. “Over the past year, staff members from across the University have stepped up to demonstrate their passion, dedication and commitment to one another and the world around us in a myriad of ways. The nominees and winners of this year’s Staff Recognition Awards have gone to extraordinary lengths to help us fulfill our mission of providing a broad demographic of students with access to a high-quality, research-intensive learning environment committed to the public good, and I am delighted to have this opportunity to recognize their significant contributions to the York community.”

The winners of this year’s Staff Recognition Awards will be honoured at an event at a later date.

This year’s recipients and nominees are:

Gary Brewer Award

This award is presented annually to a non-academic employee of York University who has shown tremendous promise for assuming a leadership role at the University, is known for their innovative and meaningful contributions to the effectiveness of their unit and has significantly contributed to the University’s commitment to excellence. The award recognizes and encourages early-career professionals who have demonstrated significant promise of leadership in their career. 

Winner: Almey Tse Soriano, graduate studies manager, Lassonde School of Engineering

The other staff members nominated for this award are:

  • Anda Petro, experiential education coordinator, Office of Student & Academic Services
  • David Kwok, associate director, Entrepreneurship, Innovation York
  • Daniel Becker, educational designer and developer, Information Technology Services, Faculty of Education
  • Melissa Falotico, program and administrative assistant (floater), Operations, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

Deborah Hobson York Citizenship Award

This award recognizes employees who have demonstrated a high level of service to students and who promote York’s spirit in terms of creativity, innovation and redefining the possible in service to the University community.

Winner: James Robertson, writing centre coordinator, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

The other staff members nominated for this award are:

  • Mavis Griffin, undergraduate program assistant, Department of Equity Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
  • Susy Ribeiro, advising coordinator, Academic Services, Faculty of Science
  • Savinder Saraf, administrative coordinator, Department of Communication & Media Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

Phyllis Clark Campus Service Award

This award is presented annually to a non-academic employee of York University who has made exemplary contributions to the operations of either of York’s campuses in terms of efficiency, cleanliness, safety, security and/or other campus or plant services.   

Winner: Jonathan Cevallos, facilities manager, Faculty of Science, Office of the Dean

The other staff members nominated for this award are:

  • Mary Rizzo, administrative and program coordinator, Accounting Specialization, Schulich School of Business
  • Marcos Vinas, Custodian, facilities services, Property Management

President’s Voice of York Award

The Voice of York Award is given to an individual who is a first line-of-contact person at York University. The most important voice of York is the one who makes the first contact with a visitor or a community member. Compassion and professionalism, particularly in handling difficult or sensitive situations, is essential to our work at York University.

Winner: Jennifer Malisani, undergraduate administrative assistant, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health

The other staff members nominated for this award are:

  • Kuowei Lee, graduate program assistant, Department of Cinema & Media Arts, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design
  • Mary Lynn Belmonte, administrative assistant, Teaching Commons
  • Mary Bettio, assistant director, Client Relations, Registrarial Services
  • Frances Sanna, undergraduate program secretary, School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

The President’s Leadership Award

The President’s Leadership Award recognizes contributions that go beyond the published requirements of a position and performance levels that foster a high level of professionalism and usually extend beyond an individual department into the University community at large.

Winner: Annette Boodram, equity, diversity and inclusion officer, Office of the Vice-President Equity, People & Culture

The other staff members nominated for this award are:

  • Brad Sheeller, director, Safety and Business Operations, Office of the Dean, Faculty of Science
  • Jennifer Ankrett, executive director, Strategy & Administration, Office of the Dean, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
  • Sanish Samuel, comptroller, Department of Finance
  • Matthew Murray, manager, Resources and Planning, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health

Harriet Lewis Team Award for Service Excellence

This award recognizes a team’s excellence in service and support to students, faculty, course directors, staff and/or other service users and its promotion of the York spirit in terms of imagination, creativity, innovation and redefining the possible in service to York’s community (internal or external).

Winner: University Information Technology’s (UIT) Client Services Team

  • Costin Ciuclaru, manager
  • Leonard Chow, assistant manager
  • Masi Benawa, service desk technician
  • Dennis Nada, service desk technician
  • Amin Al Buskan, problem analyst
  • Samira Salhan, problem analyst
  • Ian Huang, technical analyst
  • Khalid Mahmood, technical analyst
  • Steve Klein, technical analyst
  • Paul Crabbe, technical analyst
  • Nancy Chiu, technical analyst
  • Theresa M. Loftus, customer care specialist
  • Irene Chu, bilingual switchboard operator

The other staff members nominated for this award are:

  • Property Management Group of Facilities Services
  • Cinema & Media Arts Production Area Equipment Room Team
  • Teaching Commons
  • Strategic & Institutional Research Initiatives
  • Human Resources, Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
  • Spring 2020 Convocation Team
  • Marketing & Communications Unit, Athletics

Ronald Kent Medal

The medal recognizes the contributions of employees who promote and strengthen collegiality, values, and goals of York University.

Winner: Tammy Astrafallie, student success and academic advisor, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

The other staff members nominated for this award are:

  • Steven Chen, system administrator, Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Faculty of Science
  • Josie Sansonetti, administrative coordinator, Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
  • Rose Ciddio, senior student relations coordinator, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies

Annonce des lauréats et lauréates des Prix de reconnaissance du personnel de soutien 2020 de la présidente

Les Prix de reconnaissance du personnel de soutien de l’Université York sont l’occasion d’honorer, avec la présidente et vice-chancelière Rhonda Lenton, les membres du personnel qui se sont surpassés au cours de l’année écoulée pour favoriser la réussite et le bien-être de la communauté de York et promouvoir la vision, la mission et les valeurs de l’Université.

Rhonda L. Lenton
Rhonda L. Lenton

« La pandémie nous a montré ce qui est possible lorsque nous unissons nos efforts pour soutenir la population étudiante et les communautés que nous servons », a déclaré Rhonda Lenton. « Au cours de l’année écoulée, les membres du personnel de l’ensemble de l’Université se sont mobilisés de multiples manières et ont fait preuve de passion, de dévouement et d’engagement les uns envers les autres, ainsi qu’envers le monde qui nous entoure. Les personnes mises en nomination et les lauréats et lauréates des Prix de reconnaissance du personnel de soutien décernés cette année ont déployé des efforts extraordinaires pour contribuer à remplir notre mission, soit offrir à un large éventail d’étudiants et étudiantes l’accès à un environnement d’apprentissage d’excellente qualité, centré sur la recherche et dédié au bien collectif. Je suis très heureuse d’avoir l’occasion d’honorer leurs importantes contributions à l’esprit communautaire de York. »

Les lauréats et lauréates des Prix de reconnaissance du personnel de soutien 2020 seront honorés lors d’un événement qui aura lieu à une date ultérieure.

Lauréats et lauréates et personnes mises en nomination pour les Prix de reconnaissance du personnel de soutien 2020 :

Prix Gary Brewer

Ce prix est décerné chaque année à un employé ou une employée non académique de l’Université York qui a démontré un grand potentiel de leader à l’Université, a fait des contributions innovantes et significatives à l’efficacité de son unité et a contribué de manière importante à l’engagement de l’Université en matière d’excellence. Le prix honore et encourage des professionnels aux débuts de carrière prometteurs sur le plan du leadership.

Lauréate : Almey Tse Soriano, responsable des études aux cycles supérieurs, École de génie Lassonde

Autres membres du personnel mis en nomination pour ce prix :

  • Anda Petro, coordonnatrice de l’éducation expérientielle, Bureau des affaires étudiantes et universitaires
  • David Kwok, directeur adjoint, Entrepreneuriat, Innovation York
  • Daniel Becker, concepteur et développeur en éducation, Services des technologies de l’information, Faculté d’éducation
  • Melissa Falotico, adjointe à l’administration et aux programmes (suppléante), Services des installations, Faculté d’arts libéraux et d’études professionnelles

Prix du civisme de York Deborah Hobson

Ce prix honore les employés qui ont fourni aux étudiants un service d’excellence et promeuvent l’esprit de York sur le plan de la créativité, de l’innovation et d’une redéfinition des possibles au service de la communauté universitaire.

Lauréat : James Robertson, coordonnateur du Writing Center, Faculté d’arts libéraux et d’études professionnelles

Autres membres du personnel mis en nomination pour ce prix :

  • Mavis Griffin, adjointe aux programmes de premier cycle, Département d’études sur l’équité, Faculté d’arts libéraux et d’études professionnelles
  • Susy Ribeiro, coordonnatrice en orientation, Bureau des services académiques, Faculté des sciences
  • Savinder Saraf, coordonnatrice administrative, Département de la communication et des études sur les médias, Faculté d’arts libéraux et d’études professionnelles

Prix du service sur le campus Phyllis Clark

Ce prix est décerné chaque année à un employé non universitaire de l’Université York qui a contribué de façon exemplaire au fonctionnement de l’un ou l’autre des campus de York sur le plan de l’efficience, de la propreté, de la sécurité, ou d’autres services relatifs aux campus ou aux installations.   

Lauréat : Jonathan Cevallos, gestionnaire des installations, Faculté des sciences, Bureau du doyen

Autres membres du personnel mis en nomination pour ce prix :

  • Mary Rizzo, coordonnatrice administrative et des programmes, Spécialisation en comptabilité, École Schulich des hautes études commerciales
  • Marcos Vinas, concierge, Services des installations, Gestion des propriétés

Prix de la voix de York de la présidente

Le Prix de la voix de York est attribué à une personne-ressource de première ligne à l’Université York. La voix la plus importante à York est en effet celle qui établit le premier contact avec un visiteur ou un membre de la communauté. La compassion et le professionnalisme, particulièrement dans la gestion de situations difficiles ou délicates, sont essentiels pour notre travail à l’Université York.

Lauréate : Jennifer Malisani, adjointe administrative au premier cycle, Département de psychologie, Faculté de la santé

Autres membres du personnel mis en nomination pour ce prix :

  • Kuowei Lee, adjoint aux programmes des cycles supérieurs, Département du cinéma et des arts médiatiques, École des arts, des médias, de l’animation et du design
  • Mary Lynn Belmonte, adjointe administrative, Teaching Commons
  • Mary Bettio, directrice adjointe, Relations avec les clients, Services du registrariat
  • Frances Sanna, secrétaire des programmes de premier cycle, École d’études administratives, Faculté d’arts libéraux et d’études professionnelles

Prix du leadership de la présidente

Le Prix du leadership de la présidente récompense les contributions excédant les exigences officielles d’un poste et les niveaux de performance favorisant un niveau élevé de professionnalisme et rayonnant en général, au-delà d’un département donné, sur l’ensemble de la communauté universitaire.

Lauréate : Annette Boodram, agente responsable de l’équité, la diversité et l’inclusion, Bureau de la vice-présidente de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture

Autres membres du personnel mis en nomination pour ce prix :

  • Brad Sheeller, directeur, Sécurité et opérations commerciales, Bureau du doyen, Faculté des sciences
  • Jennifer Ankrett, directrice principale, Stratégie et administration, Bureau du doyen, Faculté d’arts libéraux et d’études professionnelles
  • Sanish Samuel, contrôleur, Département des finances
  • Matthew Murray, gestionnaire, Ressources et planification, École de soins infirmiers, Faculté de la santé

Prix de l’équipe Harriet Lewis pour l’excellence du service

Ce prix honore l’excellence d’une équipe en matière de service et de soutien aux étudiants, au corps enseignant, aux directeurs de cours, au personnel et à tous les utilisateurs de services, et la promotion de l’esprit de York sur le plan de l’imagination, de la créativité, de l’innovation et d’une redéfinition des possibles sur le plan des services déployés pour la communauté de York (internes ou externes).

Lauréate : Équipe du service à la clientèle des technologies de l’information de l’Université (UIT)

  • Costin Ciuclaru, gestionnaire
  • Leonard Chow, gestionnaire adjoint
  • Masi Benawa, technicien du bureau de service
  • Dennis Nada, technicien du bureau de service
  • Amin Al Buskan, analyste de problèmes
  • Samira Salhan, analyste de problèmes
  • Ian Huang, analyste technique
  • Khalid Mahmood, analyste technique
  • Steve Klein, analyste technique
  • Paul Crabbe, analyste technique
  • Nancy Chiu, analyste technique
  • Theresa M. Loftus, spécialiste de l’assistance à la clientèle
  • Irene Chu, standardiste bilingue

Autres membres du personnel mis en nomination pour ce prix :

  • Groupe de gestion des propriétés, Services des installations
  • Équipe de la salle d’équipement de l’espace de production du cinéma et des arts médiatiques
  • Teaching Commons
  • Initiatives de recherche stratégique et institutionnelle
  • Ressources humaines, Arts libéraux et études professionnelles
  • Équipe d’organisation de la remise des diplômes du printemps 2020
  • Unité Marketing et communications, Département d’athlétisme

Médaille Ronald Kent

Cette médaille récompense les contributions des employés qui promeuvent et renforcent la collégialité, les valeurs et les objectifs de l’Université York.

Lauréate : Tammy Astrafallie, conseillère aux études et à la réussite étudiante, Faculté d’arts libéraux et d’études professionnelles

Autres membres du personnel mis en nomination pour ce prix :

  • Steven Chen, gestionnaire de systèmes, Département de mathématiques et de statistiques, Faculté des sciences
  • Josie Sansonetti, coordonnatrice administrative, Département de Langues, littérature et linguistique, Faculté d’arts libéraux et d’études professionnelles
  • Rose Ciddio, coordonnatrice principale des relations avec les étudiants, Faculté d’arts libéraux et d’études professionnelles

Pour plus d’information sur chaque prix et sur les lauréats et lauréates précédents, visitez la page Web : President’s Staff Recognition Awards.

CFI awards more than $1.5M in research infrastructure funding to York University

research graphic

Researchers at York University will receive more than $1.5 million in funding from the Government of Canada as part of a $77-million investment to support 332 research infrastructure projects at 50 universities across the country.

Announced on Aug. 11 by Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, the contribution comes from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) program, a tool designed to invest in state-of-the-art labs and equipment researchers need to turn their visions into reality.

At York, Professors Ali Asgary, Marcus Brubaker, Solomon Boakye-Yiadom, Liam Butler, Taylor Cleworth, Claire David, Shital Desai, Matthew Keough, Christine Le, Ozzy Mermut, Arturo Orellana, Enamul Prince, Jennifer Pybus and Emilie Roudier will receive funding totalling more than $1.5 million for their infrastructure projects.

“York is delighted to have 14 academics receive the John R. Evans Leaders Fund,” said Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif. “This vital funding helps ensure we attract and retain the very best researchers who are undertaking truly innovative work. From addiction vulnerability to critical data-literacy research, from age-related impairments to advancements in particle physics – these projects will make positive change for our students, our campuses and our local and global communities.”

The funded projects at York are:

Ali Asgary, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
CFI JELF award: $100,000

Asgary and DEXR Lab will conduct research and develop extended reality (XR) applications for public safety, public health and disaster-and-emergency management training, education and operations. DEXR Lab will be equipped with the latest XR hardware and software for developing XR applications for areas including structural firefighting, wildfire management, hospital-emergency-and-intensive-care units, first-responders’ collision simulation, virus transmission and spread, train derailment and volcano eruption, among others. DEXR Lab will be supported by York’s Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid Response Simulation (ADERSIM) and will enhance Canada’s share in the XR research and market – putting the country at the forefront of XR applications in the aforementioned areas.

Marcus Brubaker, Lassonde School of Engineering
Generative Modeling for CryoEM, Hyperspectral Imagery and Video
CFI JELF award: $140,000

Brubaker will develop novel artificial intelligence (AI) methods focused on applications where labelled-training data is limited or unavailable. The goal of this research is to enable learning from minimal amounts of data – dramatically reducing the amount of labelled data required and democratizing access to the technology. The methods developed could allow small companies, not-for-profit organizations or even individuals to effectively apply state-of-the-art AI methods, rather than only being available to large companies (which have either vast amounts of data already available or the resources to collect it). To reach this goal, Brubaker’s research will explore probabilistic-generative methods with specific applications in hyperspectral image analysis, video analysis and the processing of electron cryomicroscopy data.

Solomon Boakye-Yiadom, Lassonde School of Engineering
Machine Learning and Additive Manufacturing for the Development of Next Generation Materials
CFI JELF award: $140,000

For thousands of years since the advent of bronze, alloy development has involved diluting a single base element with small amounts of other elements. This approach is slow, expensive and requires a lot of effort with minimal increments in required material properties. A new idea where alloys have no single dominant element is gaining traction. These multi-principal element alloys, specifically, High Entropy Alloys (HEA), possess superior properties. Research lead by Boakye-Yiadom, along with Professors Marina Freire-Gormaly and Ruth Urner, will guide in the accelerated discovery and development of advanced HEAs and enhance our ability to detect and minimize defects during metal additive manufacturing. This includes innovative discoveries for advanced materials and process monitoring during manufacturing.

Liam Butler, Lassonde School of Engineering
The Climate-Data-Driven Design (CD3) Facility for Built Infrastructure
CFI JELF award: $140,000

The influence of climatic variations on Canada’s vast infrastructure stock, valued at more than $850 billion, is largely ignored in infrastructure design. Variations in temperature, humidity and precipitation, along with increased frequency of extreme events will lead to cyclic factors that influence the behaviour of infrastructure materials. Mitigating these adverse effects starts with being able to reliably measure and to better understand the impact that climate variability has on infrastructure. Butler, along with Professors Usman Khan and Matthew Perras, will establish a unique field laboratory, where robust sensing, advanced AI-based data analytics and innovative infrastructure materials will be developed and validated. The vision is for the CD3 Facility to become Canada’s leading research laboratory in climate-data-driven infrastructure design – providing immediate impact to regulators, asset managers and suppliers, and long-term benefits for all Canadians.

Taylor Cleworth, Faculty of Health
Neuro-mechanics of Balance Deficits During Dynamic Stance
CFI JELF award: $125,000

Falls and resulting injuries are a major health and economic concern for older adults, care providers and Canadians at large. Reducing fall rates can be challenging due to the multi-faceted nature of controlling upright stance. Cleworth will study the sensorimotor mechanisms underlying balance control and investigate possible avenues of treatment for balance deficits. The new infrastructure will provide the foundation for an innovative research program aimed at understanding the complex interaction of biomechanical and cortical mechanisms that contribute to human balance and mobility deficits, and to assess and improve the efficacy of balance-related interventions and fall prevention programs.

Claire David, Faculty of Science
Next generation of neutrino detectors for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE)
CFI JELF award: $125,000

David, along with Professor Deborah Harris, will build a versatile cryogenic test bench to develop a prototype for the next generation of neutrino detectors. This modular system will have the ability to test two modules of the current state-of-the-art technology in the same cryostat – allowing direct comparison of different alternative readout systems. The modules will be paired with revolutionary electronics for light detection that other Canadian universities are developing. Ultimately, the optimized prototype will serve DUNE, the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, an international effort hosted by Fermilab in the United States. This will enable David and Harris, also research scientists at Fermilab and part of the DUNE collaboration, to be at the forefront of detector development in experimental particle physics.

Shital Desai, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design
Social and Technological Systems lab
CFI JELF award: $50,000

Efforts to develop technologies for older adults is challenged by changing physical and cognitive abilities of older adults. Assistive technologies should adapt to the needs of older adults without them having to adjust settings, change versions or use hacks. Desai’s research will investigate a generation of prompts in emerging technologies for people with dementia. Machine-learning techniques will be employed to learn about the user and make inferences regarding their state while using the technology. The research outcomes will be used to develop adaptive-assistive technology and drive pivotal advancements in the area of interactive design and adaptive technology for older adults. It will lead to development of deployable technologies in non-clinical settings, driving independence and social inclusion in older adults – advancing Canada’s position as a leader in interactive-adaptive technology.

Matthew Keough, Faculty of Health
Center for Research on Addiction Vulnerability in Early Life
CFI JELF award: $50,000

Millions of Canadians struggle with co-occurring alcohol use and emotional disorders (e.g. anxiety) but very little is known about why alcohol use and emotional disorders co-occur so frequently, resulting in a lack of understanding of how to treat them effectively. Keough’s innovative experimental research aims to uncover the biopsychosocial risk factors for alcohol use-emotional disorder comorbidity in emerging adulthood (ages 18 to 25). Keough will acquire state-of-the-art equipment for his Center for Research on Addiction Vulnerability in Early Life (CRAVE Lab). Using a simulated-bar-lab environment and innovative technology, his research will have the potential to improve treatments for alcohol use-emotional disorder comorbidity and improve the lives of many Canadians and their families.

Christine Le, Faculty of Science
Infrastructure for the Catalytic Synthesis of Medicinally Relevant Organofluorine Compounds
CFI JELF award: $160,000

Le’s research seeks to develop more efficient, cost-effective and greener methods for the synthesis of medicinally relevant fluorine-containing compounds. On average it takes 10 years for a newly discovered drug to reach the market due to the complexity of clinical trials, production and approval by government agencies. The synthetic methods targeted in this research will improve the efficiency of drug discovery and synthesis, allowing critical medicines to reach the market sooner. The research objectives and methodologies align with Canada’s commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which include the efficient use of natural resources, the reduction of chemical waste and the development of essential medicines.

Ozzy Mermut, Faculty of Science
Biophotonics Diagnosis, Treatment and Dosimetry in Age-related Disorders and Human Diseases
CFI JELF award: $160,000

Personalized medicine will improve patient outcomes and limit health-care costs facing aging populations and consequent diseases. Globally, one billion people face vision impairment, with age-related macular degeneration affecting 245 million. Mermut’s research aims to identify tissue-specific biomarkers for early-stage diagnosis of vision disorders and other diseases, advancing the understanding of molecular pathogenesis. Photonic techniques will then be developed for targeted, minimally invasive phototherapy. A tissue model will be engineered, recapitulating natural, diseased tissues to study laser treatments and develop dosimetry that provides molecular information on initiated-cell responses. The ultimate goal is complete eradication of pathogenic cells that lead to debilitating diseases through absolute, precise laser therapy.

Arturo Orellana, Faculty of Science
Organic Synthesis for Development of Therapeutics
CFI JELF award: $107,000

Orellana’s research program will focus on developing enabling technologies for new therapeutics to address the healthcare needs of a large portion of the Canadian population. This program brings together multidisciplinary teams of experts from industry and academia to target difficult challenges in health care including diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ovarian cancer and diabetes. The fundamental-science focus on design, synthesis and characterization of drug-like organic molecules will provide critical know-how to deliver cures for diseases affecting large patient populations, while establishing Canada as a leader in health and science research.

Enamul Prince, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Establishment of the Intelligent Visualization Laboratory
CFI JELF award: $114,726

Prince will establish the Intelligent Visualization Lab with an aim to make analytics more accessible by changing the way we interact with data. A diverse range of people with different levels of skills and backgrounds will perform analysis on large data-sets faster and more effectively through natural and fluid interactions. The lab will significantly improve the ability of professionals – ranging from data scientists to business analysts, to health-care analysts – to analyze data and make complex decisions, with the potential to unlock new markets and direct financial benefits for Canadian industry. The lab will also allow students to train for the high-demand fields of AI, data science and analytics.

Jennifer Pybus, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
The Centre for Public AI (CPAI)
CFI JELF award: $69,385

Pybus will establish the Centre for Public AI (CPAI) – Canada’s preeminent centre for the interdisciplinary application of a more grounded, civically driven explainable approach to AI. It aims to foster an understanding of the diverse infrastructures that gather personal data on applications and platforms through the development of tools and participatory workshops. The research conducted will fill an important gap by contributing to a growing field of critical data-literacy studies to examine algorithmic practices impacting the lives of Canadians. New tools will facilitate academic and policy interventions related to algorithmic accountability from the perspective of non-expert users who experience the outcomes of machine-learning technologies.

Emilie Roudier, Faculty of Health
Microvascular Epigenetics of Physical Activity
CFI JELF award: $80,000 

Roudier’s research aims to address how physical activity induces beneficial changes in the vascular epigenome. She will establish a specialized lab to study the interaction between physical activity and the vascular epigenome. Canadians are at high risk of vascular diseases due to unhealthy behaviours. Most researchers focus on finding and averting adverse epigenetic marks correlated with vascular diseases. This lab will take a counterpoint approach – aiming to define what a healthy vascular epigenome is. The discovery of beneficial epigenetic marks generated by this research will support the discovery of new biomarkers to assess environmental risk to vascular health and test the efficiency of lifestyle or preventive interventions aiming to boost vascular health.

About the Canada Foundation for Innovation

For more than 20 years, the CFI has been giving researchers the tools they need to think big and innovate. Fostering a robust innovation system in Canada translates into jobs and new enterprises, better health, cleaner environments and, ultimately, vibrant communities. By investing in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment in Canada’s universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions, the CFI also helps to attract and retain the world’s top talent, to train the next generation of researchers and to support world-class research that strengthens the economy and improves the quality of life for all Canadians.

Reminder: Join the York community for a virtual town hall Aug. 11


The following is an important reminder to the University community from York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton:

La version française suit la version anglaise.

Dear colleagues,

We would like to remind you that all students, staff, course instructors and faculty are invited to join us for a virtual town hall on Wednesday, Aug. 11, where we will discuss our plans for a return to on-campus activities in just a few short weeks and address questions from our community members.

We invite all students, staff, course instructors and faculty to attend, and encourage you to submit questions in advance of the event using this form. You can also visit the updated Better Together FAQs page for answers to frequently asked questions about return-to-campus plans.

Date: Wednesday, Aug. 11

Time: 2:30 p.m.

Zoom Webinar:

Webinar ID: 922 3853 1516

Telephone Dial-In: 647-374-4685

Password: 311801

Link to Livestream:

To help answer your questions, I will be joined by:

  • Lisa Philipps, provost and vice-president academic;
  • Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation;
  • Sheila Cote-Meek, vice-president equity, people and culture;
  • Carol McAulay, vice-president finance and administration;
  • Lucy Fromowitz, vice-provost, students; and
  • Parissa Safai, special advisor to the president for academic continuity planning and COVID-19 response and associate professor, School of Kinesiology and Health Science.

If you have any accessibility needs, notes or comments, please let us know.

We will be hosting this town hall via the videoconferencing platform Zoom Webinar. You can learn about downloading and using Zoom here. The webinar will also be livestreamed on the town hall website.

If you have attended a past town hall, we would like your feedback through this short survey. If you were unable to attend previous town halls, you can access all of them here.

The latest community updates, resources and answers to frequently asked questions can always be found on our YU Better Together website.

I look forward to your questions.


Rhonda L. Lenton 
President & Vice-Chancellor 

Joignez-vous à la communauté de York pour une conversation communautaire virtuelle le 11 août

Chers collègues, chères collègues,

Nous aimerions vous rappeler que l’ensemble de la population étudiante, du personnel, du corps enseignant et du corps professoral est invité à se joindre à nous pour une conversation virtuelle communautaire le mercredi 11 août, durant laquelle nous discuterons de nos plans pour le retour des activités sur nos campus dans quelques semaines et répondrons aux questions des membres de notre communauté.

Nous invitons l’ensemble de la population étudiante, du personnel, du corps enseignant et du corps professoral à participer et à soumettre leurs questions en amont de l’événement à l’aide de ce formulaire. Vous pouvez également visiter la foire aux questions (FAQ) du site Better Together pour consulter les réponses aux questions fréquemment posées au sujet du retour sur le campus.

Date : Mercredi 11 août 2021

Heure : 14 h 30

Webinaire Zoom :

Code du webinaire : 922 3853 1516

Numéro de téléphone : (647) 374-4685

Mot de passe : 311801

Lien pour la diffusion en direct :

Pour m’aider à répondre à vos questions, je serai accompagnée de :

  • Lisa Philipps, vice-présidente aux affaires académiques et rectrice
  • Amir Asif, vice-président de la recherche et de l’innovation
  • Sheila Cote-Meek, vice-présidente de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture
  • Carol McAulay, vice-présidente des finances et de l’administration
  • Lucy Fromowitz, vice-rectrice aux affaires étudiantes
  • Parissa Safai, conseillère spéciale de la présidente pour la planification de la continuité académique et la réponse à la COVID-19 et professeure agrégée de l’École de kinésiologie et des sciences de la santé

Si vous avez des besoins, des remarques ou des commentaires en matière d’accessibilité, veuillez nous le faire savoir.

Cette conversation communautaire aura lieu grâce à la plateforme de visioconférence Zoom Webinar. Vous pouvez télécharger Zoom et apprendre à vous en servir ici. Le webinaire sera également diffusé en direct sur le site Web des conversations communautaires.

Si vous avez déjà assisté à une conversation communautaire, nous aimerions connaître votre opinion avec ce bref sondage. Si vous n’avez pas pu assister aux conversations précédentes, elles sont toutes disponibles ici.

Vous trouverez les dernières mises à jour, ressources et réponses aux questions fréquemment posées sur notre site Web Better Together.

J’attends vos questions avec impatience.

Sincères salutations,

Rhonda L. Lenton 
Présidente et vice-chancelière

The show must go on: How York theatre students helped adapt a local high-school musical for pandemic times

Out of Sync poster

A year-end musical theatre production can be as important to the heart and soul of a high school as its season-opening football game or senior prom. So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year and began robbing students of some of their most formative experiences, drama educators scrambled to keep the curtains from closing.

Marlis Schweitzer
Marlis Schweitzer

Karen O’Meara, department head of dramatic arts at Richmond Green Secondary School in Richmond Hill, Ont., was one such teacher. Determined to forge ahead with her combined Grade 11 and 12 musical theatre production, she reached out to Marlis Schweitzer, professor and Chair of the Department of Theatre in York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, whom she had been collaborating with on workshops for drama teachers. They both decided that this was the perfect opportunity to combine forces in a new way.

“At the time,” explains O’Meara, “I was putting on a production, which I then had to translate into an online production. What ended up resulting from that conversation was a number of York theatre students saying, ‘Hey, we don’t have anything to do. It’s the pandemic and everything is locked down; we would love to help with your show.’ So those were the initial seeds of this project.”

Karen O'Meara
Karen O’Meara

With the help of those enthusiastic student volunteers, Richmond Green presented its first online production in spring 2020 – and it was a huge success. Heading into the next pandemic-impacted school year, Schweitzer decided to take the project one step further by officially incorporating it into York’s theatre curriculum as a for-credit experiential education offering called the Independent Production Practicum.

The course kicked off in January of this year and the seven enrolled students – Isabella Liscio, Megan Keatings, Hannah Smith, Rachel D’Arpino, Dave Harack, Laura Nigro and Joshua Kilimnik – jumped right into planning mode, joining O’Meara for a two-hour meeting on Zoom every Monday night. When the high-school semester began the following month, the York students took the high schoolers through a series of theatre workshops, which O’Meara says “set the bar high for the students and gave them a fantastic foundation to continue with creative exploration.”

Through breakout rooms on their weekly Zoom calls, the York students went on to provide mentorship in areas where they had passion and interest. There were rooms for choreography, vocals, directing, producing and script-writing, to name a few. They attended the high-school classes whenever they could, and provided leadership within the classroom setting – running scenes and coaching students on various aspects of the show. Their contributions did not go unnoticed.

Isabella Liscio
Isabella Liscio

“The York students were outstanding,” says O’Meara. “They had so much genuine enthusiasm for what our students were doing. They were always willing to offer their expertise, make suggestions and provide great feedback.”

One of the York theatre students, Liscio, who just finished her third year specializing in performance creation and research, started working with O’Meara in May 2020 as a volunteer to get classroom hours for her teachers college application. She has now helped Richmond Green put on three productions. “This experience has meant so much,” she says. “I want to be a drama teacher and I didn’t have much experience working with high-school students before. I got to learn and explore with them what this genre of online theatre is and work with them in the areas of acting, directing, marketing and production.”

Rachel D'Arpino
Rachel D’Arpino

Another third-year student, D’Arpino, who is majoring in performing arts and concurrent education, originally applied for the course thinking it was a volunteer opportunity that would serve her well as she pursues a future as a high-school drama teacher. She was thrilled to discover that it had become a for-credit course and she hopes to continue her involvement with the school. “Karen wants our opinion, asks us to help and gets everyone involved,” she says. “The kids are so immersed in everything, learning it all and putting it together from scratch. It has been such an amazing opportunity to give input and watch the whole experience come to life.”

Like the others, Harack, who will be heading into his third year of York’s theatre production program in the fall, plans to attend teachers college post-graduation. He knows this experience with Richmond Green will help him thrive in that setting and in the industry at large. “Seeing the students take the lead has been really awesome,” he says. “To see them progress from an idea to filming scenes and then editing, it was a really rewarding experience.”

Putting on a large-scale production during pandemic times certainly had its challenges, though, requiring the students to adapt on the fly to the ever-changing restrictions. “We knew we were only going to get a very short time together in person and we had to take advantage of every minute,” says O’Meara. “Our biggest learning was that if you want to produce work virtually, you have to be very organized, have a solid plan and be flexible to change.”

And change they did. The 28-person high-school class was expecting to have two in-person blocks for filming, but when everything was shut down after the first block, they had to go back to the drawing board and rewrite the script accordingly. “But because we had such a good plan at the start and a very good scene-by-scene vision, that really helped guide us when we had to make a change,” says O’Meara.

Out of Sync poster
Student-designed promotional poster for the “Out of Sync” production

The end result was “Out of Sync,” a completely student-written musical that went live on the evening of June 23 via Zoom, of course. The show was about four high schools – one private, one public, one arts-focused and one sports-focused – competing against each other in a lip-sync battle. As the rival schools went from cut-throat saboteurs to considerate allies, the show left its audience with the feel-good takeaway that music has the power to unite people from all walks of life.

Understandably, signs of the pandemic were everywhere in the production – students in masks, physical distancing, scenes filmed in students’ homes, in parks, on Zoom and some spliced together to make it appear that the cast was in the same place when in reality they were not. And perhaps that was part of the show’s charm, serving as a sort of time capsule for the strange and surreal year that was.

No one yet knows what the next school year has in store, but one thing is certain: the educational experience gained from putting on this production in such turbulent times will have a lasting impact for all involved.

“I’m delighted that our students have had such an exciting opportunity to work closely with Ms. O’Meara and the students at Richmond Green on the development of a new musical,” says Schweitzer. “Through this collaboration, they’ve developed leadership and teaching skills that will enhance their careers, whether they decide to go on to become high-school drama teachers themselves or pursue other creative avenues. I look forward to seeing this kind of partnership grow in the future.”

By Lindsay MacAdam, communications officer, YFile

Lassonde postdoctoral Fellow earns award for research that improves drinking water

Drinking water

Pratik Kumar, a postdoctoral Fellow in Professor Satinder Kaur Brar’s lab in the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University, has won an award for his work on improving the quality of drinking water.

Kumar was recognized with the International Water Association Young Water Professionals Canada Award for his research focused on developing a biofilter capable of removing cyanotoxins from surface water sources. This research can be applied to drinking water sources in Canada, such as the Great Lakes, and abroad. Cyanotoxins are produced by the commonly seen algae blooms that surround these water sources. These compounds are known to possess massive risks for drinking water, magnified by the difficulty of the removal of these toxins.

The prototype household filtration unit developed by Pratik Kumar and Professor Satinder Kaur Brar
The prototype household filtration unit developed by Pratik Kumar and Professor Satinder Kaur Brar

This issue is of particular importance for Ontarians, since water from the Great Lakes is used to service over eight million Canadians. Kumar’s mission was to develop a bench-scale solution that was both sustainable and economical. The result was a biofilter that used graphitized sand to reduce the concentration of these cyanotoxins to 0.61 µg/L, which is less than the critical concentration of 1 µg/L established by the World Health Organization. The choice of sand was of particular importance, as Kumar recognized from the start that household users might not like the idea of using bacteria or biological compounds to treat their drinking water. In fact, the graphitized sand used in this work can be obtained through green methods by repurposing existing waste products. The work has been published in the journal Science of the Total Environment across two publications, demonstrating the ability to use sand composites as filters for water contaminants and a prototyped unit.

Having conducted his PhD and postdoctoral fellowship with Brar in Lassonde’s Department of Civil Engineering, Kumar always knew that he wanted to be an academic. He was recently appointed as a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Jammu, starting in April 2021, which he said was a dream come true.

“I studied at IIT and wanted the opportunity to go back there,” said Kumar. “I want to motivate young researchers and minds and help them believe that they can make a difference.”

Pratik Kumar (Near Lake Delage, Quebec City, Quebec) taking algal bloom samples
Pratik Kumar (near Lake Delage, Quebec City, Que.) taking algal bloom samples

Following the completion of his PhD, which coincided with the beginning of the pandemic, Kumar was concerned about how water professionals would be able to work together. He joined the International Water Association Young Water Professionals chapter in Canada, where he was involved in communications aiming to propagate water research and technology being developed within Canada. He wanted to create awareness about these technologies and influence their use across the world.

“Dr. Kumar was highly motivated and self-driven,” said Brar. “He set a great example for the research group and was always keen to participate in projects with other students.”

Kumar’s work is far from done. After focusing on improving drinking water quality in Canada, he has shifted his focus abroad to India, where the need to remove toxins and other primary pollutants from water sources is greater, with less than half of the population having consistent access to safe drinking water.

Kumar is currently working in India to have his biofilter technologies installed across households there. As well, the research lab is targeting to conceptualize the modular treatment system in the field of wastewater engineering.

York U planetary scientist puts Mars lake theory on ice with new study that offers alternate explanation

Mars South Polar Layered Deposits on top of Martian Smectites: The multi-kilometer thick south polar ice cap has a base that is composed, at least partially, of a common type of clays. These clays are found over nearly half of the planet's surface and now at the edges of the ice cap. Radar measurements of the clays from a lab led by Smith show that they can explain the bright reflections observed by MARSIS, a simpler explanation than bodies of liquid water. Credits: ESA/DRL/FU Berlin (top), NASA (bottom).
Mars South Polar Layered Deposits on top of Martian Smectites: The multi-kilometer thick south polar ice cap has a base that is composed, at least partially, of a common type of clays. These clays are found over nearly half of the planet’s surface and now at the edges of the ice cap. Radar measurements of the clays from a lab led by Smith show that they can explain the bright reflections observed by MARSIS, a simpler explanation than bodies of liquid water. Credits: ESA/DRL/FU Berlin (top), NASA (bottom).

For years, scientists have been debating what might lay under the Martian planet’s south polar cap after bright radar reflections were discovered and initially attributed to water. But now, a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, led by planetary scientists from the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University, puts that theory to rest and demonstrates for the first time that another material is most likely the answer.

Isaac Smith

Research led by Isaac Smith, Canada Research Chair and assistant professor of Earth and space science at Lassonde School of Engineering and research scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, uses multiple lines of evidence to show that smectites, a common type of clay, can explain all of the observations, putting the Mars lake theory on ice.

“Since being first reported as bodies of water, the scientific community has shown skepticism about the lake hypothesis and recent publications questioned if it was even possible to have liquid water,” said Smith. Papers in 2018 and 2021 demonstrated that the amount of salt and heat required to thaw ice at the bottom of the polar cap was much more than Mars provides, and recent evidence showing these radar detections are much more widespread – to places even harder to thaw ice – put the idea further into question.

Mars south polar layered deposits on top of Martian Smectites
Mars south polar layered deposits on top of Martian smectites: The multi-kilometer thick south polar ice cap has a base that is composed, at least partially, of a common type of clays. These clays are found over nearly half of the planet’s surface and now at the edges of the ice cap. Radar measurements of the clays from a lab led by Smith show that they can explain the bright reflections observed by MARSIS, a simpler explanation than bodies of liquid water. Credits: ESA/DRL/FU Berlin (top), NASA (bottom)

The research team, which includes researchers from the University of Arizona, Cornell, Purdue and Tulane universities, used experimental and modelling work to demonstrate that smectites can better explain the radar observations made by the MARSIS instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter. Further, they found spectral evidence that smectites are present at the edges of the south polar cap.

“Smectites are very abundant on Mars, covering about half the planet, especially in the Southern Hemisphere,” said Smith. “That knowledge, along with the radar properties of smectites at cryogenic temperatures, points to them being the most likely explanation to the riddle.”

Experiments done at York University measured the radar characteristics of hydrated smectites at room temperature and cryogenic temperatures. The radar characteristics in question are two numbers that represent the real and imaginary parts of the dielectric constant. Both numbers are important for fully characterizing a material, but the 2018 study used modelling that included only the real part of the dielectric value, leaving out certain classes of materials from being considered – namely clays.

Once the experimental measurements were completed, data was evaluated using code. It was in these simulations that researchers found that frozen clays have numbers big enough to make the reflections.

Smectites are a class of clay that is formed when basalt (the volcanic rock that comprises most of Mars’ surface) breaks down chemically in the presence of liquid water.

Spectral color map from the CRISM instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter draped over HiRISE imagery at the edge of the south polar ice cap. Specific colors from this map indicate the presence of smectite clays, an important discovery that helps to explain the MARSIS radar observations. Credit: NASA/JPL/UA.
Spectral colour map from the CRISM instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter draped over HiRISE imagery at the edge of the south polar ice cap. Specific colours from this map indicate the presence of smectite clays, an important discovery that helps to explain the MARSIS radar observations. Credit: NASA/JPL/UA

“Detecting possible clay minerals in and below the south polar ice cap is important because it tells us that the ice includes sediments that have interacted with water sometime in the past, either in the ice cap or before the ice was there,” said Briony Horgan, co-author and associate professor in Earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at Purdue University. “So, while our work shows that there may not be liquid water and an associated habitable environment for life under the cap today, it does tell us about water that existed in this area in the past.”

To support this new hypothesis, Smith conducted experiments in his lab with equipment designed for measuring dielectric values. To simulate the conditions beneath Mars’ south polar cap as best as possible, his team froze the clays to -50 C and measured them again, something that had never been done before. Smith adds that the infrared absorptions attributable to these minerals are present in south polar orbital visible-near infrared reflectance spectra. Because these minerals are both present at the south pole and can cause the reflections, the team believes this to be a more viable scenario than the presence of liquid water. No salt or heat is required.

“We used our lab measurements of clay minerals as the input for a radar reflection model and found that the results of the model matched very well with the real, observed data,” said Dan Lalich, postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science at Cornell University and second author on the study. “While it’s disappointing that liquid water might not actually be present below the ice today, this is still a cool observation that might help us learn more about conditions on ancient Mars.”

“We analyzed the MARSIS radar data and identified observations with high-power values at the base of the south polar layered deposits, both in the proposed lake region and elsewhere,” said Jenny Whitten, co-author and planetary scientist in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Tulane University.

“The first reason the bright reflectors cannot be water is because some of them continue from underground onto the surface. If that is the case, then we should see springs, which we don’t,” said Stefano Nerozzi, postdoctoral Fellow in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and Department of Geosciences at the University of Arizona and co-author. “Not only that, but multiple reflectors are stacked on top of each other, and some are even found right in the middle of the polar cap. If this were water, this would be physically impossible.”

Putting the results in perspective, Smith says the answer is clear.

“Now, we have the trifecta. One, we measured dielectric properties of materials that are known to exist on over 50 per cent of Mars’ surface and found them to have very high values. Two, we modelled how those numbers would respond in Mars’ south-polar conditions and found them to match the radar observations well. Three, we demonstrated that these minerals are at the south pole. Because the liquid water theory required incredible amounts of heat, which is six to eight times more than Mars provides, and more salt than Mars has, it was already implausible,” he said. “Now, the clays can explain the observations with absolutely no qualifiers or asterisks.”

Knowledge Mobilization Unit offers innovative, hands-on course to support researchers

York University’s commitment to the dissemination of knowledge has been the foundation of many exciting and innovative programs and partnerships. One recent example of this is gaining traction from universities across the nation and, in doing so, solidifying York’s role as a trailblazer in knowledge mobilization.

Krista Jensen
Krista Jensen

Krista Jensen, knowledge mobilization officer in Innovation York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit, helps connect academic research with public policy and practice. She runs MobilizeYU, an engaging and hands-on program to support researchers in mobilizing their research and making it accessible. (Note: The course is called MobilizeYU, but for audiences outside of York the name is adapted to MobilizeU.)

“A lot of research is publicly funded, and we feel there’s an obligation to bring that research back to community,” she explains. “It’s really all about making research useful.”

Jensen sat down with Laila Sheather, a work/study student in the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, to discuss MobilizeYU. 

Q: Please describe MobilizeYU and its key audience.

A: Our mandate is to connect academic research with people outside of the University. We’ve been in operation since 2006, and something we’ve been hearing over the last couple years is the desire to learn more about what knowledge mobilization is – it’s not a very intuitive term – and people might not be sure how to do it.

Three years ago, we decided to put together an eight-week course to come up with something more comprehensive. We wanted to give people some hands-on skills that they could use for research projects or when developing grant applications.

MobilizeYU topics
Jensen emphasizes that this work is all about making research useful

MobilizeYU is aimed at all faculty members, postdocs, grad students, staff, recent alumni (graduating in the last two years) and community partners. We have accepted people outside of York to come, but we often charge them for it. It’s free for anybody at York and their community partners.

Q: How has it expanded recently to Making the Shift, Research Impact Canada and other universities?

A: Some of our partners at Research Impact Canada, a network of universities committed to maximizing the impact of academic research for the public good, come from smaller institutions that don’t have the capacity to develop a whole course. When we were planning this summer, we decided this would be a good opportunity to see if some of them could join us. Every university has its strengths, and we thought there might be some modules they’d be able to provide some information for. 

About 15 members from Making the Shift are going to be taking the course this summer and they come from all different universities and organizations across Canada. Making the Shift contributes to the transformation of how we respond to youth homelessness through research and knowledge mobilization specific to youth homelessness prevention and housing stabilization.

For this summer, we launched a pilot working with the University of Winnipeg and Memorial University, so that’s been pretty exciting because we’ve really expanded the reach and offered new content to participants. Last summer we had 85 people register and this summer we’ve had just over 140. 

These collaborations have also created innovative content in other universities, such as the University of Winnipeg’s new focus on Indigeneity, by creating a module on Respectful Knowledge Mobilization with Indigenous communities. 

In addition to our participants from York, the University of Winnipeg and Memorial University, we’ve had diverse participants from organizations such as the Manitoba Research Alliance, Lawson Health Research Institute, Kenora Chiefs Advisory, Gambling Research Exchange Ontario, Arthritis Society and voicED Radio Canada. Participants also come from Western University, Saint Mary’s University, University of Manitoba, University of Alberta, Carleton University, University of Windsor, Ontario Tech University, Queen’s University, University of Victoria, MacEwan University, Dalhousie University and Maskwacis Cultural College. 

We’ve reached a wide scope of participants and supported more than 280 internal stakeholders over the span of three years, including those from Making the Shift.

MobilizeYU’s pilot program with the University of Winnipeg and Memorial University
MobilizeYU’s pilot program with the University of Winnipeg and Memorial University, showcasing this summer’s topics

Q: What’s next for the program?

Recently, we’ve been working on customized versions of the course for people outside of York. Last fall, the Student Association of Gerontology – Student Connection @ York – worked with us to put together an eight-week course and pick topics specifically related to gerontology. About 80 students had taken the course and we got great feedback. We featured gerontology researchers who discussed their knowledge mobilization strategies, which allowed students to gain more specific knowledge. We also wrote a paper with them that was just submitted to a journal. 

We also designed a customized course with the Pacific Forest Centre in early 2021, which is part of the Canadian Forest Service within Natural Resources Canada. We showcased forestry experts as guest speakers who shared more knowledge mobilization info that was specific to forestry. 

These customized courses have given us access to a wide audience beyond York where we can showcase York’s strengths. In the future, we hope to do more customized programs because they’re a good way to grow the program and help York become further recognized as a leader in knowledge mobilization. 

To learn more about the Knowledge Mobilization Unit (KMb), visit its page. To learn more about MobilizeYU, click here. For specific questions, contact Krista Jensen at

To learn more about Research & Innovation at York, follow @YUResearch; watch the new animated video, which profiles current research strengths and areas of opportunity, such as artificial intelligence and Indigenous futurities; and see the snapshot infographic, a glimpse of the year’s successes.

Children’s health course tackles SDGs with an assist from globally networked learning

Collaborating with students from Ecuador on a class project was an eye-opening experience for Danielle Legerman, a fourth-year student in York University’s Children, Childhood and Youth Studies (CCY) program and president of the new United Future Teachers’ Association.

“It was the first opportunity I had for globally networked learning (GNL) in university and it was exciting,” said Legerman. “I thought it would be tricky building rapport online with someone across the globe, because it’s always difficult meeting someone new, but we clicked almost instantly, perhaps because we had a common goal (the project).”

Pairing York students with students from Universidad San Francisco de Quito in her course Children’s Health and Quality of Life: A Rights-based Perspective was the work of Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, associate professor in the CCY program, supported by the GNL team within York International.

“This course offers a good opportunity for intercultural dialogue through globally networked learning, because children’s health is affected by decisions made globally and thus wholly affiliated with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” van Daalen-Smith said. “In this popular elective in CCY, we look at the social determinants of Canadian children’s health and what creates quality of life in relation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, something that most countries have officially signed.” By enabling discussion about the same issues for children in another country, such as Ecuador, students gain the ability to understand how health is a human right for children.

Supported by the GNL team, van Daalen-Smith was partnered with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, connecting with a professor who was teaching a service-learning course that was focused on giving back to the community.

“They weren’t focused specifically on children’s health, although they were concerned about child poverty, but they were sold by the opportunity to discuss the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a key strategy in service learning in Ecuador. They were excited about the possibility of facilitating intercultural dialogue and meeting students and professors from another country.

United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals infographic
United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals infographic

“We agreed that we’d each do a lecture in each other’s class and have the students work together in groups to explore an SDG of choice in order to understand its relevance to children’s health and children’s rights. It fit perfectly with York’s University Academic Plan, which in part invites faculty, programs and students to find ways to pursue meaningful engagement and impact on the SDGs as a university.”

While van Daalen-Smith taught the social determinants of health, the SDGs and children’s rights to the Ecuadorean students remotely, Universidad San Francisco de Quito Professor Karla Diaz discussed child health inequities in Ecuador with the York students, even bringing them to a simulated village to illustrate how some children in Ecuador live. Meanwhile, the students worked online in groups of two or three to examine an SDG in depth, examining the link between them, children’s health and the social determinants of health in each country.

Over the course of a few weeks, the students spent time conversing and sharing information, discussing the issue and relevant statistics, determining how their chosen SDG affected children. They each were asked to prepare an infographic reflecting the impact of the SDG, whether in their own country or comparing both countries, and they each presented them to their own class.

“The students all wished we could have more synchronous time and, moving forward, I would ensure these synchronous group meetings are scheduled ahead of time in one another’s syllabus,” van Daalen-Smith said. “Our respective courses only overlapped for a few weeks because of different semester start dates, so we only scratched the surface in terms of intercultural discussion, but we saw that the major health threats to children in each country were very different. In Canada, they included injuries, poor mental health, child abuse, poverty, food insecurity, physical inactivity, bullying, vaccine-preventable illness and discrimination. In Ecuador, the concerns were sexual abuse, food insecurity and poverty. What jarred both myself and Dr. Diaz was that in both countries, Indigenous children were faring the worst in terms of health outcomes, quality of life and poverty.”

Legerman’s group focused on reducing inequality (SDG No. 10) and “there was lots to talk about,” she said. “It was great to have an in-depth conversation with a partner across the globe. We realized how many differences there were in our countries’ health policies for kids.”

As she continues on to teachers college in 2022, Legerman plans to look for opportunities to build globally networked learning into the courses that she, herself, teaches.

Her classmate, Iffat Shah, a third-year CCY major, had never heard of GNL before taking this course, but said she hopes there are more opportunities in her future. “It’s a great way to get insight into the rest of the world and learn about the health and rights of children in a part of the world where you’ve never been.”

Shah and her group focused on SDG No. 16, peace and social justice for children, and she enjoyed the research, the discussions with students in Ecuador and learning from her classmates’ presentations on their own SDGs.

“Everyone is used to being online, and it’s great that in my own house, I can see remotely what is happening in other countries,” she said.

“I’m sold, totally sold, on GNL,” said van Daalen-Smith. “When you have two committed professors, students get excited about talking to others around the world. And the SDGs are a perfect fit for globalizing our classrooms at York University.”

She is working on integrating GNL into her upcoming PhD courses in nursing and in gender, feminist and women’s studies this coming year. Van Daalen-Smith and Diaz, her Ecuadorean colleague who is now a friend, are already planning to work together again next summer.

“We’re looking at what we’d do the same and what we’d do differently, while continuing to unpack the SDGs and their relevance for children,” she said. “She’s awesome, and I’m excited about it. What made this all possible was that the level of support we received from the GNL team at York International was second to none. I highly recommend GNL to my colleagues at York and look forward to faculty colleagues reaching out if they are as intrigued with the prospect of GNL as I was. Pedagogically, it is a real game-changer.”

By Elaine Smith, special contributor

Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award recognizes 11 students

Image announcing Awards

Eleven York University students were recently honoured with the Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award, which recognizes students’ leadership at the University and their contributions to the growth, development and vitality of the York community. Now in its ninth year, the award was created in honour of Robert J. Tiffin, who served as York University’s vice-president, students from 2005-12.

York University students, faculty, staff and alumni nominated students based on their engagement and leadership roles at York. An in-person ceremony was not possible this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, winners were notified in a congratulatory letter from Lucy Fromowitz, vice-provost, students.

“All candidates for this award are role models who exhibit leadership, dedication, integrity, enthusiasm and the demonstrated pursuit of excellence. On behalf of the entire York University community, thank you for your hard work and commitment to excellence,” Fromowitz wrote.

Tiffin also recognized the students’ achievements and their dedication to leadership amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Each year, students are encouraged to become proactively engaged with their educational experiences through their academic studies, co-curricular and extracurricular activities. You definitely embraced that challenge and, despite the disruption caused by the pandemic in the past two academic years, have not only enhanced the student experience of your fellow students, but also shaped the foundations for future students to become engaged within the York community,” he said. “I’m always impressed by the diversity of ways in which leadership occurs at York, and this was truly evident in the ways you contributed.”

Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award recipients this year:

Amin Hatamnejad
Amin Hatamnejad

Amin Hatamnejad
Hatamnejad is pursing a bachelor of science in the Kinesiology and Health Science program in the Faculty of Health. He has held a variety of roles within the Kinesiology and Health Science Student Organization, including president. He helped to transition the program fully online amid the pandemic and created two new chapters: Discover You and the Alumni Network (YUKSAN). Hatamnejad has also worked as a leadership coach, course representative co-ordinator and orientation co-ordinator at both Calumet and Stong Colleges, and has served as a student senator and a president’s ambassador.

Ammon Cherry
Ammon Cherry

Ammon Cherry
Cherry, an environmental studies student in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC), is the president of the EUC’s Student Association (EUCSA). He was part of the Black Excellence YU Student Consultations, whose input contributed to the actions outlined in York’s Anti-Black Racism Framework. Cherry also served as a president’s ambassador, alumni ambassador and a as student representative on several Faculty committees while pursuing his studies.

Bri Darboh
Bri Darboh

Bri Darboh
Darboh is a doctoral student in clinical neuropsychology in the Faculty of Health and an MBA student at the Schulich School of Business. She has held many advocacy roles, including doctoral student representative, Black Students in Psychology (BSIP) graduate student representative, member of the Diversity Committee and peer mentor in the Autism Mentorship Program. She is also a student affiliate at the Canadian Psychological Association, the Ontario Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association. Throughout her time at York University, Darboh has also created several new workshops, planned events and participated in student groups.

Humayra Rashid Safa
Humayra Rashid Safa

Humayra Rashid Safa
Safa, an international development studies student in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), fundraised with LA&PS’s Advancement team to help visible minority students experiencing financial difficulties. This effort allowed more than 200 students to take classes last summer. Safa has also held several roles on the International Development Students’ Association, including co-president, vice-president and treasurer. She also helped to co-ordinate the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals Hub and served as both a president’s ambassador and LA&PS dean’s ambassador.

Jean-Marc Moke
Jean-Marc Moke

Jean-Marc Moke
Moke, a psychology student in the Faculty of Health, is dedicated to improving the lives of Black students at York University through his many leadership roles on campus. He is a co-founder and president of the BSIP and a member of the Department of Psychology Undergraduate Studies Committee. He sat on both Calumet and Stong colleges’ Student Success Councils and is a volunteer with York University’s Black Student Alliance. Moke also contributed to the development of York’s Anti-Black Racism Framework and is currently working on establishing a proprietary mentorship program for Black psychology students at York.

Magdalena Kajo
Magdalena Kajo

Magdalena Kajo
Kajo, an economics and French studies student at York University’s Glendon Campus, has been an active leader throughout her time at York. She has contributed by serving Glendon Campus as a school director for Peace by PEACE Glendon. She also held the positions of Chair of Glendon’s Student Caucus and co-founder and vice-president of the Glendon Economics and Business Club. In addition, Kajo was an RBC student ambassador for York University with RBC Wealth Management.

Mahafarid (Fara) Seddigh
Fara Seddigh

Mahafarid (Fara) Seddigh
Seddigh, a psychology and law and society student in the Faculty of Health, has held various roles with the Undergraduate Psychology Student Association, including being promoted to co-president after serving as vice-president of student success and as a peer tutoring co-ordinator. She founded LetsStopAIDS at York, the local chapter of a youth HIV charity. She is currently a Daughters of the Vote Delegate for Equal Voice and a member of the Richmond Hill Constituency Youth Council.

Mingyu (Matthew) Lim
Matthew Lim

Mingyu (Matthew) Lim
Lim, a biology (biomedical science) student in the Faculty of Science, has held several leadership roles throughout his time at York University. He has served in many capacities, including as a president’s ambassador, science student ambassador, vice-president of communications and first-year representative on the Bethune College Council. He also contributed his time as a Residence Life don. Lim is currently working as a research assistant in the infant clinical psychology field.

Monica Shafik
Monica Shafik

Monica Shafik
Shafik, an international development studies and law and society student in LA&PS, has been an active volunteer and social justice advocate, completing more than 4,200 hours of community service. She is the director of ancestral services for Future Ancestors Services, an Indigenous- and Black-owned, youth-led organization that advances climate justice and equity with an anti-racism and ancestral accountability focus. Shafik has also been a Go Global student ambassador for York International, a student advocacy co-ordinator for the Student Academic Support Centre in the York Federation of Students, and a student ambassador and dean’s ambassador for LA&PS.

Simi Sahota
Simi Sahota

Simi Sahota
Sahota, a psychology and business student in the Faculty of Health, has been dedicated to helping others reach their full potential. Her success as a Peer-Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) leader led to faculty inviting her to co-present about PASS at York’s 2019 Teaching in Focus Conference. She has also been a leadership coach, and as project lead of the Financial Wellness Project, she leads a team of research assistants, script writers and video editors.

Vishwaveda Joshi
Vishwaveda Joshi

Vishwaveda Joshi
Joshi, a social anthropology student in the Faculty of Graduate Studies, was York International’s first graduate international student engagement liaison and was invited to represent York University during the High Commission of Canada’s Women’s Day Celebration. As co-chair of the Social Anthropology Graduate Students’ Association, she was involved in creating a COVID-19 emergency fund for graduate students in her program early in the pandemic.

To learn more about the Robert J. Tiffin Student Leadership Award, visit the Vice-Provost Students website.