Lassonde and Schulich students pitch their BEST business ideas in course

Female climber on a wall
Female climber on a wall

In early April, nine groups of students from the Lassonde School of Engineering and the Schulich School of Business at York University pitched their business ideas as part of the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology (BEST) Certificate’s Entrepreneurship and Technology Ventures course (ENTR 4500).

Each group presented their original ideas to a panel of judges. In the end, team WeBoard came out on top, winning $500 and spot in the BEST Lab to work with Lassonde Professor Andrew Maxwell to turn their idea into a viable startup. The group was made up of  Schulich students Aidan Davis, Ali Akbary and Benjamin Tsui, and Lassonde students Stefan Sion and Tak Gurnek.

Team WeBoard presented a DIY at-home climbing wall system that offers climbers an opportunity for varied training by connecting them to ever-growing, community-sourced boulder problems. The board will have a standardized layout of climbing holds and LEDs that connect via Bluetooth to a mobile application where users can both create new boulders and select boulders that others have created. When a boulder is selected, the LEDs will light up, indicating which holds can be used.

With the rock-climbing community growing faster than ever and the sport officially being recognized in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, there has never been a better time to launch a climbing business.

While similar products exist, such as the Moonboard, for many they are out of reach due to the high price point and the cost of the materials involved. WeBoard’s value proposition was to offer this community-based, convenient climbing solution at a price that many climbers can afford by catering to the DIY crowd that often goes hand-in-hand with the rock-climbing community.

The other groups that took part in the pitching were MyeFit, HUBB, DroneWay, Skills4U, Vlife, UniFind, WeBoard, Home Touch and Instabar.

Exploring a universe of mysteries: Four scientists consider how we fit into the ‘vast cosmic dance’

York researchers are leading the way in space science and engineering
York researchers are leading the way in space science and engineering

Sometime in autumn 2023, a parachute will deposit a canister that will land in a Utah desert. Inside it will be rock samples from an asteroid called Bennu, with an orbit mostly situated between Earth and Mars. This operation has a lot to do with York University’s expertise and leadership in space science and engineering.

Bennu, roughly the height of a skyscraper at 500 metres in diameter, is interesting in many ways. For one thing, it poses a disarmingly real threat to us. It orbits close to Earth every six years and many space scientists believe there’s a small chance it could strike our planet in the next century.

Abstract space cloudscape scenic. Black Background.
York researchers are leading the way in space science and engineering

This aside, Bennu has a deeper value. It could contain clues about the origin of the solar system – including our planet and every living being on it. (As Joni Mitchell put it so aptly in her song Woodstock, “We are stardust…”)

Michael Daly

The rock samples are being brought to us courtesy of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and by the technical expertise of York’s Michael Daly, a professor of Earth and Space Sciences in the Lassonde School of Engineering.

Daly, director of York’s Centre for Earth and Space Science, has been working with the Canadian Space Agency since 2008 on developing the OSIRIS REx Laser Altimeter, an instrument to map the surface of Bennu.

“I developed the concept for the instrument, a very early part of the design. I put the plan together for analyzing the data and how we were going to observe the asteroid to capture the scientific information we required,” he explains.

Daly, York Research Chair in Planetary Science, and his colleagues had to consider a multitude of challenges. Can you get there easily? Does the asteroid spin slowly enough that you could touch down and collect a sample? Can you get the sample back?

Thanks to Daly’s mapping, the team discovered that Bennu has a very rocky surface and the researchers were able to locate a smooth area, the size of a few parking spaces, where the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft could sample.

The plan worked. The spacecraft extracted samples and is soon to make its way back to Earth. Daly is thrilled. Even though the bumpy surface threw a temporary wrench into their plans, “these surprises are valuable because you’ve learned something unexpected,” he says.

Daly is one of a growing community of scholars at York that focuses on every aspect of space and how it all came to be. This work has contributed to an increasing buzz among space experts around the world.

Isaac Smith
Isaac Smith

“York is very strong in space. I don’t think there’s any rival in Canada,” says Canada Research Chair in Planetary Science and Lassonde Professor Isaac Smith, who joined York in 2018, having come from the renowned Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona.

Smith was surprised by the reaction from friends when he first arrived in Toronto. “My neighbours asked what I did for a living. I told them I’m a planetary scientist at York… they didn’t even know the University had a space program.”

After earning his master’s in physics, Smith toured the American west where he became fascinated by geology, rock formations and deserts. He then applied that interest to the planet closest to us: Mars.

“Mars has always been part of humankind’s fascination. We grew more interested when the first telescopes made people wonder if there might be water and even life, in some form.”

While life has not been found, the idea of it continues to tantalize scientists.

“Mars’ geology is remarkably similar to our planet. I could take a picture of the Utah desert, and find another picture from a rover on Mars, and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.”

But Smith isn’t focused on the ages-old question of life on Mars. Instead, he wants to understand how the planet was born, how it has evolved. He believes this has a lot to do with ice.

“The story of Mars is incomplete if you don’t talk about ice. There’s ice all over the planet. In the past, it was water, and this shaped many of the landforms – giant canyons and glaciers, created 100 million years ago. The ice and water are important in the formation of Mars. I want to understand more,” he explains.

John Edward Moores
John Moores

York Research Chair in Space Exploration Professor John Moores is also fascinated with planets. A professor in Earth and Space Science Engineering at Lassonde, he says the focus of his research group is to use what they learn in planetary science to support space missions.

Moores has a special interest in the red planet – especially the mysterious presence of methane. The gas was detected by Curiosity, the NASA rover that has been on Mars since 2012. Methane is produced by numerous natural, biological processes on Earth – from fossil fuels to cow flatulence. “We understand why it’s present on Earth, but we don’t expect it on Mars. To understand why it’s there, we need more data,” says Moores.

As much as Mars, Bennu, Earth and the ever-expanding universe is a mystery, there’s one force that unifies it all: dark matter. Professor Sean Tulin believes it’s at the root of, well, everything.

Sean Tulin
Sean Tulin

“Dark matter is the biggest missing piece of the puzzle we have in astrophysics,” says Tulin, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and Canada Research Chair in Particle Physics and Cosmology. “It’s easy to think, ‘There’s this mysterious substance in space that doesn’t impact what we do.’ But it provides the cosmic foundation for the entire structure in the universe, all the galaxies, and how they’re organized and how they form.

“Think of a birthday cake,” he suggests. “The regular matter – the planets and the stars – are the frosting but the dark matter’s the cake.”

Tulin uses mathematical calculations to investigate the properties of dark matter, then shares his ideas and predictions with astronomers to test them.

“The universe is about 14 billion years old. For about 10 billion of those years, it was dominated by dark matter. If we want to understand what the universe looks like, we have to understand the properties of dark matter. We still don’t. We can’t see it with telescopes. It’s a huge challenge to try to figure this out.”

And why is all this research so valuable?

Tulin says “We can use space as a laboratory for understanding the fundamental properties of nature.”

Smith explains “I’m motivated to share what I learn with students and the public. Helping them feel that wonder and amazement energizes me to learn and share more, do more research.”

Daly elaborates “Space exploration helps us to put ourselves in context in the universe. We’re part of something much bigger than Earth. And if we don’t explore space, I think we lose some of our basic humanity.”

Moores agrees. “By studying ancient environments on other planets we are able to get a better idea of how life originated on our own world, and how our own planetary systems, such as the climate, will change over time. This new knowledge about these wonders will expand our conception of what’s possible and how we fit into this vast cosmic dance.”

To learn more about Daly, visit his profile page. For more on Tulin, see his profile. To learn about Smith’s work, visit his profile. For more on Moores, visit his faculty profile page.

To learn more about Research & Innovation at York, follow us at @YUResearch; watch our 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.

Paul Fraumeni is an award-winning freelance writer, who has specialized in covering university research for more than 20 years. To learn more, visit his website.

Cell phone or laptop overheating? Lassonde researchers take a nanoscale look at the problem

man sitting at a computer
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Have you ever felt your cell phone or laptop overheat?

Controlling heat generation and overheating in electronics is an ongoing challenge in the race between faster-performing processors and thermal management.

The desire to improve processing power can lead to overheating, and in worst-case scenarios, the microprocessors in laptops or phones can generate heat comparable to that of a stovetop. Since processing units can easily overheat due to the energy that courses through them, engineers are constantly monitoring the heat management of electronics devices.

Simone Pisana
Simone Pisana

Researchers at the Lassonde School of Engineering, led by Simone Pisana, associate professor, electrical engineering and computer science, have been focusing on finding a solution to this problem by investigating the thermal properties of materials at the nanoscale.

“This work has implications in the design of electronic chips since more speed or memory results in a better performing processor. The issue is that higher frequency (the speed measured in gigahertz) results in more heat and managing that heat is a challenge,” said Pisana.

This is where his expertise with nanoscale materials offered new insights into heat transfer. Pisana’s team was able to determine that heat transfer occurs differently in layered metallic systems in the nano-scale regime as opposed to macro-(or human-) sized materials. It is the first time that this process has been demonstrated in conductive metallic materials at these sizes since traditionally this process was only known in insulating materials.

The experimental setup in Professor Pisana’s laboratory where this work was conducted. A series of lasers are set up to allow for the performance of frequency-domain thermoreflectance (FDTR) – an effective method for investigating thermal properties at the nanoscale
The experimental setup in Professor Pisana’s laboratory where this work was conducted. A series of lasers are set up to allow for the performance of frequency-domain thermoreflectance (FDTR) – an effective method for investigating thermal properties at the nanoscale

This work was published in ACS Applied Electronic Materials (2021) with the article title “Nondiffusive transport and Anisotropic Thermal Conductivity in High-Density Pt/Co Superlattices.”

“For more than 20 years the magnetic materials industry has been able to manufacture electronics parts down to the nanoscale, but the corresponding understanding of thermal properties at that scale has not kept pace,” said Pisana.

As an expert in magnetic materials, Pisana examined the thermal properties of typical magnetic memory materials (the same materials used to create hard drives and future high-speed memory chips). They tested the thermal properties of cobalt and platinum, a prototypical combination for magnetic memory materials.

Traditionally, heat transfer in macro-sized materials is dominated by the diffusion of energy-carrying particles through the material that can be described by simple equations, however, the exact mechanism behind heat transfer occurs between particles, electrons in this case, at the nanometer scale. When these electrons start interacting with materials that are of similar sizes, the non-diffusive transfer of heat begins to become dominant, and the physics describing the transport become much more complex.

Close-up of the optical elements that combine and route lasers as they excite and probe energy carriers in nanoscale materials
Close-up of the optical elements that combine and route lasers as they excite and probe energy carriers in nanoscale materials

“Non-diffusive transfer of heat is interesting from the design perspective, as all the traditional equations that we use to characterize heat transfer break down once we start to investigate materials at the sub-micron to nanoscale,” said Pisana. “The findings in this study tells us that we need to start using more complex models even in metallic systems. This in turn will help us understand how to improve heat dissipation in electronic and data storage devices.”

To do this investigation at the nanoscale, Pisana has an experimental facility funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John Evans Leadership Fund (JELF) featuring a combination of lasers and sensors that allow for frequency-domain thermoreflectance (FDTR) – an effective method for investigating thermal properties at the nanoscale.

This work was led by Lassonde PhD candidate Mohammadreza Shahzadeh. There were also significant international contributions to this work. Olga Andriyevska, a doctoral student in Pisana’s research group, travelled to Germany through a Mitacs Globalink award to work with Chemnitz University of Technology Professor Olav Hellwig, a veteran researcher in magnetic materials.

Female researchers sweep 2021 Lassonde Innovation Awards

Bergeron Centre
Bergeron Centre

The Lassonde School of Engineering at York University has released the results of its 2021 Lassonde Innovation Awards, which included two innovation awards, one graduate mentorship award and the inaugural awarding of the media outreach award.

Faculty members from the Department of Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering were honoured this year.

  • Innovation Award – Early Researcher: Magdalena Krol, associate professor, Department of Civil Engineering.
  • Innovation Award – Established Researcher: Satinder Brar, professor, Department of Civil Engineering.
  • Graduate Mentorship Award: Magdalena Krol, associate professor, Department of Civil Engineering.
  • Media Outreach Award: Marina Friere-Gormaly, assistant professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

“We are delighted to honour these individuals as exemplary researchers and ambassadors for the Lassonde School of Engineering. These winners were determined through an academic committee and their cutting-edge research, dedication to training, and willingness to have an impact beyond the lab is admirable,” said Professor John Moores, associate dean of research and graduate studies.

For the first time ever all recipients of the awards are female faculty members. Krol is the first female faculty member to receive both the Innovation Award – Early Researcher and the Graduate Mentorship Award. She is also the first faculty member to receive two awards in the same year. Friere-Gormaly is the inaugural winner of the media outreach award.

“These three women represent the future of engineering at Lassonde. Together they demonstrate the strength of our research program, our dedication to our surrounding community and our commitment to our students,” said Lassonde School of Engineering Dean Jane Goodyer.

Magdalena Krol: Innovation Award – Early Researcher & Graduate Mentorship Award

Magdalena Krol
Magdalena Krol

Krol joined the Lassonde School of Engineering in 2014 and has quickly developed an innovative research program focused on the development of experimentally validated models to predict contaminant subsurface transport. This issue, if unaddressed, can lead to significant harm to human and ecological health with potential costs in the billions. Krol’s work is industry-driven as she has secured significant external funding through the Ontario Research Fund (ORF), Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Alliance, and NSERC Collaborative Research and Development Grants (CRD). She received the Early Career Award from the International Association of Hydrogeologists in 2019, the Lassonde School of Engineering Research Excellence Award in 2018 and was recognized as a York Research Leader in 2019.

The success of her research program can be attributed to the talent of the highly qualified personnel and students that she has mentored while at Lassonde. Her students have received numerous prestigious awards including the Alexander Graham Bell Graduate Award, the Carswell Scholarship and the Lassonde Undergraduate Research Award. Alumni from her group have all found jobs directly related to their training. In addition, Krol is a champion of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in research at Lassonde. She has supported EDI initiatives at Lassonde through GoEngGirls, the Thales Technovation and York’s Women’s weekend.

Satinder Kaur Brar: Innovation Award – Established Researcher

Satinder Kaur Brar
Satinder Kaur Brar

Brar is the James and Joanne Love Chair in Environmental Engineering and an internationally recognized leader in water and wastewater related research. Her work on sustainable environmental issues includes removal of trace organics from water, petrochemical degradation and valorization of waste products. The impact of her work has been felt worldwide: she has developed widely-adopted filters to remove arsenic from drinking water in African and Asian countries, she is a nominated Federal Full Professor in Brazil and has developed new bioflocculants for the beer industry.

Within Canada she has been recognized as a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists in the Royal Society of Canada, received the le Soleil Vedette from Le Soleil and was named to the Cercle d’excellence de l’université du Québec. Internationally, she received the Eddy Wastewater Principles/Processes medal in 2019, the American Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Grand Prize in University Research in 2017 and the Save The Environment (STE) International Achiever Award in 2019, and several American Society of Civil Engineering awards for best research papers, originality and state-of-the-art technologies in 2019 and 2021.

Marina Freire-Gormaly: Media Outreach Award

Marina Freire-Gormaly
Marina Freire-Gormaly

As the inaugural winner of the Lassonde Media Outreach Award, Freire-Gormaly has made a concerted effort to engage with traditional news outlets and other emerging media spaces. Her research focuses on new technologies and materials for energy sustainability, safe and healthy indoor environments, and clean drinking water.

Speaking about her team’s research and its impact on society, Freire-Gormaly has appeared on CTV News, CITY TV News, CTV News Northern and CBC Radio International in the past year alone. She has been engaged in scientific outreach through the Helen Carswell STEAM program, Let’s Talk Science, Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering and Academics Without Borders. In addition to receiving York University funding for COVID-19 aerosol transmission research, she has received funding through Canada’s Department of National Defence’s Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS)’s Pop-up City Contest, the NSERC Discovery Grant with an Early Career Research Supplement, the NSERC Emerging Infectious Disease Modelling Initiative, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI-JELF) and the York University Lassonde Innovation Fund.

Researchers at York University receive $9 million in Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) funding

research graphic

Three major research projects at York University have received more than $9 million in research infrastructure funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced more than $518 million in research infrastructure funding on March 3 that will support 102 projects at 35 post-secondary institutions and research hospitals across the country.

“We are grateful for this visionary investment in the infrastructure needed to support York University’s ground-breaking research activities. The grants from CFI’s Innovation Fund will enable York to conduct fundamental research, helping us to better understand our planet and universe; develop technologies to address complex social, health, environmental, and economic challenges; and drive positive change in Canada and around the world,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton.
York University Distinguished Research Professor Eric Hessels receives the 2020 CAP Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Physics. Photo by Paola Scattolon
Eric Hessels. Photo by Paola Scattolon

York University Distinguished Research Professor Eric Hessels has been awarded $3,360,000 from the CFI Innovation Fund for the project Tabletop Probe of PeV-scale new physics. A professor in York’s Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Faculty of Science, Hessels was recently honoured for his work in high-precision atomic physics measurements and their significance as tests of fundamental physics. This CFI grant will allow for ultra-precise measurements that will test the fundamental laws of physics at energies that are much higher than the 14-TeV Large Hadron Collider at CERN.  The infrastructure will be used to test whether the electron is spherical, or whether it has an electric dipole moment − a small distortion in its charge distribution. Such a distortion would be evidence that a fundamental symmetry of physics is violated at high energies, making matter act differently than antimatter, and could help to explain why the universe is made entirely out of matter, rather than antimatter.   

Derek Wilson
Derek Wilson

Professor and York Research Chair Derek Wilson has been awarded almost $2.1 million as principal investigator of a project withYork University Distinguished Research Professor Sergey Krylov, Technology-Enhanced Drug Development and Manufacturing (TEnDev): MirrorLab. Their research in the Department of Chemistry in the Faculty of Science, is centered on the development of powerful new bioanalytical technologies that provide high detail, dynamic pictures of how drugs interact with their protein targets. TEnDev will enable Canadian international leadership in pre-clinical drug development and manufacturing through the creation of a globally competitive hub for technological innovation in biopharmaceuticals research. The result will be a greatly expanded capacity for biopharmaceuticals research at York University, and a distinct competitive advantage for pharmaceutical companies choosing to locate R & D activities in the surrounding region. TEnDev will also generate direct health benefits for Canadians through accelerated drug approvals and improved manufacturing quality.

George Zhu
George Zhu

Professor George Zhu has been awarded almost $3.6 million for Intelligent Additive Manufacturing Technology for Space Exploration, a project that will lead a transformation in mass and volume reduction for rocket launching satellites into space and self-sustained medical support to human spaceflight.  A professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering, Zhu aims to develop transformative Artificial Intelligence (AI) enhanced Additive Manufacturing (AM) and 3D bioprinting technologies for human space exploration in three new frontiers: near net-shape manufacturing by AI enhanced AM; lightweight multifunctional materials; and 3D bioprinting for regenerative medicine. The long-term objectives are to make spacecraft, payloads and surgical instruments with AM technology operated autonomously by intelligent robots, and 3D print implantable biological substitutes to enable in-situ medical treatment of astronauts in space. The goal is to create functional prototypes of selected AI-AM systems for spaceflight, within five years, as well as scaffold-free 3D bioprinting technology ready for spaceflight, and new lightweight multifunctional materials and metamaterials.

The Prime Minister’s full announcement: New investments to support research and science across Canada.

Lassonde’s BEST Startup Experience accepting student applications

Bergeron Centre
Bergeron Centre

Want to address some of the world’s biggest challenges while working in teams and learning how to create a business venture?

The Lassonde School of Engineering BEST Lab at York University is running a virtual Startup Experience event from March 5 to 7. During the event, students will come together and work in teams to come up with solutions to challenges centred around the UN Sustainable Development Goals and then develop a business case and pitch their idea to a panel of judges.

UN Sustainable Development Goals infographic
UN Sustainable Development Goals explained in a simple infographic

This immersive experiential learning program will encourage students to tackle real-world issues including some of the York University Sustainability Challenges:

  • How might we improve waste management and recycling on campus?
  • How can we reduce the level of organic waste we hold off-site?
  • How may we reduce single-use food containers on campus?
  • How might we reduce the impact of smoking affecting non-smokers on campus?
  • How can we reduce paper waste associated with posters on campus?

All students who take part in the event will follow a structured design sprint methodology framework. They will also receive mentorship and advice, learn what it takes to start a company, discover future career paths and address real-world challenges that have a big impact on society.

The winning teams will win cash prizes along with a membership to Lassonde’s BEST Lab where they will receive coaching and support to continue working on their projects.

Application deadline is March 3. To learn more about the BEST Startup Experience, visit the BEST Lab website.

Lassonde’s K2I Academy launches Helen Carswell STEAM Program for Black and Indigenous Youth

Bergeron Centre
Bergeron Centre

This month, the K2I Academy in the Lassonde School of Engineering welcomed 25 Black and Indigenous students from the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) to participate in a 14-week paid research program. The high school students will work on research projects related to engineering, computer science, earth science and/or atmospheric science under the guidance of undergraduate research assistant mentors, supervised by Lassonde faculty. Each student that participates in this program will receive a secondary co-op credit.

K21 High school students meet their student mentors and faculty at the Lassonde School of Engineering
K21 Academy high school students meet their student mentors and faculty at the Lassonde School of Engineering during a virtual meet and greet on Feb. 10 to mark the start of the 14-week program

All research projects are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and are focused on making a positive social impact. In this program, Black and Indigenous youth will gain research experience in engineering and technology fields and they will have the opportunity to network and connect with research faculty and industry professionals. In addition, this innovative program gives undergraduate mentors an opportunity to develop their leadership and research skills. Mentors will guide their team to learn about the engineering design process, computational thinking and the application of science and mathematics to solving real-world problems.

Justine Frampton, an undergraduate student in the Atmospheric Science program, is one of the program’s undergraduate mentors this term and looks forward to developing her research and leadership skills over the coming 14 weeks. “Being a part of a program of such importance has been a very rewarding experience for me,” said Frampton. “Sharing the brilliance of STEM through inclusivity and creative engagement has not only made a difference to today’s youth but also aided in the development of my own self-discovery and growth.”

The program kicked off on Feb. 10 with a virtual opening ceremony.

The K2I Academy, an innovative ecosystem of STEM educators, thought leaders and partners is focused on bringing STEM experiences to youth, educators and communities through the lens of equity, diversity and inclusion. K2I Academy designs innovative programs that address systemic barriers to STEM post-secondary pathways, enabling students who are underrepresented in STEM, including women, Black and Indigenous youth, to explore and access various opportunities. It is committed to building sustainable programs that focus on equitable and inclusive program design that strives to diversify the STEM profession – kindergarten to industry.

For more information on the K2I Academy, email k2i@lassonde.yorku.ca.

The Helen Carswell STEAM Program was made possible due to a generous gift from the Carswell Family Foundation.

Helen Carswell was a registered nurse by trade who demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit. Most notably in 1974, Carswell co-founded Optech Inc. with her husband Allan I. Carswell. Today, Teledyne Optech is a world leader in high-tech lasers with systems on all seven continents, in space and on the surface of Mars.

Throughout her life, Carswell has been active in the arts, playing piano and the violin and singing for many years. She dedicated much of her community service and philanthropic affairs to supporting arts-based programs.

Engineering students awarded for exceptional contributions and hands-on work

Bergeron Centre
Bergeron Centre

Two student changemakers from York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering have received the Nascent Co-op/Internship Students of the Year Award. The award recognizes students for their exceptional contribution to their co-op employer and involvement in the Lassonde community.

Julia Paglia
Julia Paglia

Julia Paglia is a fourth-year computer engineering student who has made a name for herself within the Lassonde community. Her meaningful initiatives and active involvement in numerous competitions and engagement activities has earned her a stellar reputation at Lassonde as well as the broader York University community.

Her summer 2020 work term at DecisivEdge Canada – a technology solutions firm – gave her an opportunity to make a significant impact on the organization. She worked as a full-stack developer focused on a remote acknowledgement and informed consent platform meant to educate and assess patients and caregivers. In a matter of only two weeks, she was able to learn the code, tools and programming languages needed to push her code into production.

“Decisivedge has opened the doors for Julia Paglia whether as an intern next summer or a regular employee after graduation,” said Michael Pongan, lead software engineer at DecisivEdge. “We know she will be an asset to our company or any company she will join.”

As a result of her immediate contributions, Paglia was given more responsibility and was able to provide support to clinical trials during COVID-19 to help build solutions for the global pandemic. Paglia was recognized on multiple occasions for exemplifying the company’s core values both in and outside of the workplace. With her 2020 co-op, Paglia was able to establish a strong connection between DecisivEdge and York University.

“The nature of my software development was impactful, not only on a personal level but also on a societal level,” commented Julia. “I collaborated with teams in the U.S. as well as India, delivering code that was distributed to clients all over the world.”

Ignacio Isola
Ignacio Isola

As a third-year space engineering student, Ignacio Isola completed a 12-month co-op at Canadensys Aerospace Corporation in the role of Aerospace Engineering Intern. During this time, he was an integral part of the design team for a complex avionics project and was instrumental in all phases of the development. He started by managing one out of three modules and was later trusted with managing a second module. Upon successful delivery of both modules, Isola went on to lead the entire assembly process of the units and was able to deliver fully functional hardware to Canadensys customers.

During his co-op, Isola found innovative solutions to complex problems and learned new techniques and technologies. Apart from his own responsibilities, he dedicated time to mentoring other interns and showed a remarkable ability to learn new skills which he had passed on to both his peers and senior staff. Isola has also shown a great deal of commitment to Lassonde and the co-op and internship program by supporting his peers through the job search process.

“From the moment that Ignacio joined our team, he has been an invaluable employee, participating and contributing to our work at a level that is years ahead of what would be expected from an undergraduate student,” said Luke Stras, Electrical Team Lead at Canadensys. “Over the past five years I have worked with dozens of interns at Canadensys Aerospace. Several of these have been exceptional, but I would rank Ignacio at the top of even this elite group.”

As a result of his contributions and achievements, Isola has been offered a full-time position at Canadensys Aerospace after graduation.

Professor John K. Tsotsos awarded the CS-Can/Info-Can Lifetime Achievement Award

John Tsotsos
John Tsotsos

Distinguished Research Professor of Vision Science from the Lassonde School of Engineering, John K. Tsotsos, has been awarded the CS-Can/Info-Can Lifetime Achievement Award in Computer Science for his sustained and outstanding contribution to Canadian computing. This accolade is awarded for important and sustained contributions  by one individual in at least two different domains.

John K. Tsotsos
John Tsotsos

Tsotsos has been a trailblazer in computer vision research in Canada and his contributions to the field have been comprehensive, including foundational computer science research and practical applications. Over his long and distinguished career, he is best known for his work in visual attention and in active robot perception. His highly acclaimed monograph that details this work was published by the MIT Press in 2011.

Today, Tsotsos’ research program remains more innovative than ever with increasing impact on science and applied research. In 2019, he and his students disproved a long-standing, 60-year-old theory on how the human brain processes images. Last year his lab developed new methods to predict pedestrian motions for use in autonomous driving. And the research program continues as Tsotsos holds a Canada Research Chair until fall 2024.

Tsotsos joined York University in 2000, after working at the University of Toronto since 1980. He is a Distinguished Research Professor of Vision Science, while maintaining adjunct professorships at the University of Toronto in the Departments of Computer Science and in Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences. He directed York’s renowned Centre for Vision Research from 2000 to 2006 and is the founding director of York’s Centre for Innovation in Computing at Lassonde.

Tsotsos’ research has always focused on how images are processed, understood and used. He is a co-inventor on four patents, was co-recipient of the 1997 CITO Innovation Award for Leadership in Product Development and has co-founded five companies. He was an IBM Center for Advanced Studies Visiting Scientist for several years. He has served on the editorial boards of several top journals of various mandates, spanning AI, computer vision, human vision, cognition, and applications in medicine and has been on the organizing committees of over 100 workshops and conferences.

In addition, Tsotsos is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) and received the Sir John William Dawson Medal from the RSC in 2015 for his contributions to knowledge in human and computational vision. The latter was the first and only time the medal has ever been awarded to a computer scientist. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Fellow Emeritus of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Computational Vision.

Tsotsos trains the future of Canadian computer vision and robotics researchers. Alumni from his research program are spread across the world, with strong research careers of their own or having founded successful startups, with many in advanced leadership positions in academia and industry. The influence and expertise of his program is such that computer vision programs in central Canada, at the undergraduate and graduate level, are almost exclusively led by either Tsotsos or one of his alumni.

2021 Lassonde Undergraduate Research Awards competition is now open

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Are you looking to grow and develop your research experience by working on exciting projects while getting paid? For the sixth year in a row, the Lassonde School of Engineering will be hosting more than 60 summer positions with two different awards.

The Lassonde Undergraduate Research Award (LURA) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Undergraduate Student Research Award (NSERC USRA) give undergraduate students an opportunity to undertake cutting-edge research supervised by a Lassonde faculty member.

Each award is $10,000 for research projects that take place over 16 weeks during the summer. In August, students will also have an opportunity to showcase their hard work during a live online conference.

Applications are now open.

All the information about eligibility, how to find a supervisor, and what is needed to apply can be found on the Lassonde Undergraduate Research site.

The competition is open to full time undergraduate students, enrolled in the Lassonde School of Engineering, York University, or any school across the globe.

This experiential learning program is a great opportunity for students to gain hands-on research experience and leverage it towards future grad studies, co-op opportunities, or their career.

To see highlights from last year’s conference, visit the Lassonde Undergraduate Research page.

For more information, contact resday@yorku.ca.

Students and faculty are also welcome to join information sessions to learn more: