My Secret Life: York environmental researcher, arctic explorer, polar plunge enthusiast

My Secret Life FEATURED

By Joseph Burrell, communications officer, YFile

For York Research Fellow and Environmental & Urban Change Adjunct Professor Mark Terry – whether he’s raising awareness about the health of far-flung ecosystems, or raising funds for environmentalist groups – there’s no such thing as too cold.

With two near-zero degree dives on his record, and a third pencilled into his calendar, Terry doesn’t see himself as a career cold-water swimmer – but considering that his first attempts took place in Antarctica and the Arctic Ocean, respectively, he has more expertise in that field than most.

Mark Terry swimming in Antarctica
Mark Terry during his swim in Antarctica

Indeed, his commitment to studying the world’s most remote polar and oceanic biomes is rivalled only by his dedication to the University community. Terry’s history with York spans many decades, beginning with his BA in English and media studies earned from Glendon Campus in 1980. With his career in writing, directing, acting and even stunt driving in films well under way, he eventually returned to York to receive his master’s degree in 2015 and his PhD in 2019. For each, he wrote theses that considered documentary films as catalysts for change.

Between those academic pursuits, Terry found his passion as an environmental documentarian. Never shying away from the hands-on approach, Terry underscored critical points in his films about the rapid warming of the polar ice caps, and the precarious existence of wildlife there, by jumping into the frigid depths himself.

“The first [time] was actually sub-zero temperatures in Antarctica for the film The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning. That polar plunge was used as a post-credit scene – ­long before Marvel started doing it, by the way – to illustrate how warm the water surrounding the world’s coldest continent was becoming,” Terry said. “The Arctic swim was for my most recent documentary, The Changing Face of Iceland. That polar plunge, and the film itself, can be seen on campus at the Nat Taylor Cinema on March 9 at 12:30 p.m.

As for his preferred swimming spot, Terry would choose Antarctica over the Arctic because the latter requires jumping from a ship into deep, cold water – a dangerous feat even for experienced professionals. Antarctica, on the other hand, allows for easy wading across its icy shoals, plus “there’s the added bonus of swimming with playful penguins.”

For his next bone-chilling stunt, Terry will join the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s (RCGS) Polar Plunge fundraiser for the “Canadian Geographic Explore” podcast.

Terry, an RGCS Fellow, takes his plunge from Sunnyside Beach on March 6 at noon. Although the approaching end of winter means warming air temperatures, Terry explained that early March is when Lake Ontario’s historical average water temperature is actually at its coldest. Even with his prior experience, he admitted that taking the plunge is “always a little bit stressful.”

The annual event is sponsored by Canadian Geographic Magazine and features a cast of high-profile environmental researchers, reporters and politicians diving into icy waters across Canada to raise money for polar research and knowledge dissemination.

Mark Terry's Royal Canadian Geographical Society Polar Plunge fundraiser banner, featuring slogan: BE BOLD. GO COLD.
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Canadian Geographic present: #RCGS Polar Plunge: Be Bold. Go Cold. With Mark Terry

Some of Terry’s fellow plunge participants are already well known to him from having collaborated on projects in the past. Others participating include: Catherine McKenna, former federal minister of the environment and climate change; Perry Bellegarde, former chief of the Assembly of First Nations; David McGuffin, CBC foreign correspondent; among others.

“When Catherine McKenna was [a federal minister,] we met with youth groups at COP24 to listen to their demands for policy participation and to showcase their films in my ongoing research project, the Youth Climate Report – now a digital database of more than 700 films on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),” Terry said. “She was, and still is, a true environmental champion.”

In light of the continued success of the Youth Climate Report, in which Terry played a pivotal role, the United Nations recognized the “Geo-Doc” film format with a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Action Award in 2021. Around that time, York also formally acknowledged the importance of the SDGs by integrating them into its University Academic Plan 2020 – 2025.

Terry identified the enthusiasm for filmmaking and environmental research, fostered in him throughout his time at York, as the primary motivator driving his work with the RCGS College of Fellows. “There are many exceptional members of the College of Fellows,” he said. “I am proud to be among their ranks.”

“I’ve crossed the Northwest Passage with them and their work was presented in a film I made called The Polar Explorer. Its premiere at COP16 in Cancun led to a new resolution addressing rising sea levels,” Terry added. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Click here to support Terry’s plunge.

Do you have a “secret life” or know someone else at York who does? Visit the My Secret Life questionnaire and tell us what makes you shine, or nominate someone you know at York.

Schulich research considers fragile masculinity in the workplace

Man and woman at work, examining spreadsheets while seated at lunch table

New research from York University’s Schulich School of Business reveals that men tend to respond to questions about their gender identity with a variety of harmful workplace behaviours, including withholding help, mistreating coworkers, stealing company property and lying for personal gain.

Luke Zhu close-up portrait
Luke Zhu

The findings are contained in an article published recently in Harvard Business Review. The article was co-authored by Luke Zhu, associate professor of organization studies at the Schulich School of Business, together with Keith Leavitt, the Betty S. Henry Amundson Faculty Scholar in Ethics and professor of management at Oregon State University; Maryam Kouchaki, professor of management and organizations at Kellogg School of Management; and Anthony C. Klotz, associate professor of management at University College London School of Management.

The authors conducted a series of studies with more than 500 employees based in the U.S. and China that looked at the impact of experiences such as failing to live up to masculine or feminine stereotypes at work, being compared negatively to others with respect to masculine or feminine traits, holding a job traditionally viewed as masculine or feminine, and – for men – reporting to a female supervisor.

The researchers found that when men perceived these experiences as threats to their masculinity – which was often the case – they were more likely to engage in toxic workplace behaviour, including cheating, stealing, breaking rules and undermining colleagues. The pattern was not found among women when femininity was threatened.

“Men need to be aware of this behaviour, and proactively embrace a healthier version of masculinity,” says Zhu. “At the same time, managers and leaders can take steps to dismantle the structures that may be driving men to feel that their masculinity is being threatened in the first place.

“If we can create a workplace culture in which everyone feels that their gender identities are valued,” Zhu adds, “then we can begin reducing the destructive behaviour that often occurs when those identities are questioned or threatened.”

York University students in running for McCall MacBain Scholars prizes

glasses and pen resting on notebook

Van Thien Pham (BEng ’23) and Essete Tesfaye (BA ’23) are finalists for the first global cohort of McCall MacBain Scholars at McGill University. The scholarships are the result of a $200-million gift in 2019 from John and Marcy McCall MacBain – the second-largest single donation in Canadian history.

Designed to encourage purposeful leadership, the scholarships enable students to pursue a fully funded master’s or professional degree while participating in mentorship, coaching and a leadership development program.

“Our aim is to provide a life-changing opportunity for students who have a track record of contributing to their communities and a genuine desire to make a positive impact,” said John McCall MacBain, Chair of the McCall MacBain Scholarships at McGill.

Students and graduates from more than 1,200 universities around the world applied for the McCall MacBain Scholarships in this first year of global admissions; 242 participated in regional interviews with local leaders in October and November; and 87 finalists were selected. Up to 30 McCall MacBain Scholars will be selected after final interviews.

Van Thien Pham close-up portrait
Van Thien Pham

Pham and Tesfaye will attend the final round of interviews in Montréal from March 8 to 12, meeting with leaders in academia, business, government and the social sector.

Pham, a student at York’s Lassonde School of Engineering, contributed to the student community as vice-president of finance of the Engineers Without Borders university chapter. He’s a member of two engineering student society committees and a student orientation executive. He co-founded the EngiQueers chapter at York, served on the school’s Learning, Curriculum, and Students Committee, and volunteers as a translator for migrant workers. He also runs an online coffee company and is interested in advancing technology to improve the lives of coffee farmers.

Essete Tesfaye close-up portrait
Essete Tesfaye

“The Lassonde community has always opened doors and given me many opportunities to explore, which sharpens who I am today,” said Pham.

Tesfaye, a fourth-year global health student at York, is a youth liaison for a grassroots collective that provides mental health resources to Ethiopian and Eritrean youth in Toronto. Among other contributions, she gathered data for grant applications and identified barriers to access. Tesfaye also designed a social media strategy for a reading club and helped research the use of virtual reality to manage pain and anxiety. Previously, as a high school student in Uganda, she helped organize a Model United Nations conference. She is applying for master’s programs in public health and epidemiology.

“I am excited to have the chance to interview for such a fantastic opportunity,” said Tesfaye. “I choose to volunteer my time on campus because I would not have been able to achieve this without my community, and I want to ensure that I create the same sense of community for future students.”

Areeba Chaudhry close-up portrait
Areeba Chaudhry

“We are all very proud of Van Thien Pham and Essete Tesfaye for making it to this stage of the process,” says Nona Robinson, vice-provost, students. “Being selected for an interview is such an incredible accomplishment among so many exceptional nominees, and we wish them all the best.”

In addition, the McCall MacBain Scholarships program also offered Regional Awards of $5,000 each to 38 more Canadian candidates who were among the top in their region. Biomedical science students Areeba Chaudhry and Aleeza Qayyum both earned Regional Awards, which are tenable at any public university in Canada.

Aleeza Qayyum posing in laboratory
Aleeza Qayyum

Chaudhry is vice-president of the STEM Fellowship chapter, a program facilitator at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), serves on the executive branch of the Science Society, and is a two-time recipient of the NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award to carry out independent research projects in therapeutic development. She plans to study medicine after graduating.

Qayyum chaired the science student caucus and has been volunteering with CNIB for seven years and has spent the past three summers working in research labs and created a first-place award-winning presentation of her NSERC USRA-funded research project on Alzheimer’s disease. She is also applying to medical and biochemisty graduate programs.

Applications will open in June 2023 for the 2024 McCall MacBain Scholars prizes.

Research Chair in Philosophy earns fellowship from National Endowment for the Humanities

To truly understand how the brain is working, Crawford says we have to know how the different areas of the brain, and different neurons in those areas, are connecting to each other

Jacob Beck, associate professor and York Research Chair in Philosophy, won a US$60,000 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in recognition of the novel research carried out in his project “Minds without Language,” which closely examines the process of human thought.

As stated in its press release on Jan. 10, the NEH launched the $28.1 million fund, aiding more than 200 humanities scholars across the globe, in order to support “humanities research at college campuses, conservation research, innovative digital resources, and infrastructure projects at cultural institutions.”

Jacob Beck close-up portrait
Jacob Beck

Beck’s fellowship will provide him with time to research and write a book about pre-linguistic forms of perception and thought. The book will be informed by vision science, neuroscience and other cognitive sciences and help to counter the linguistic model of the mind that has dominated philosophical theorizing about human and animal minds for the past century. Beck’s fellowship proposal was one of 70 of its kind funded out of 1,029 applications.

“Talking to my colleagues in the Centre for Vision Research, and other cognitive scientists, I came to realize that philosophical models of the mind are out of touch with what scientists have learned,” Beck said. “My project draws on the science to update those models to give us a clearer picture of what human minds are like and how they differ from the minds of nonhuman animals.

“This fellowship will give me the opportunity to take a step back from the targeted articles I’ve been writing and weave my various lines of thought together into a book. I’m really excited,” he added.

Beck is one of two researchers at Canadian institutions, and among only four researchers based outside of the U.S., to have received the NEH funding.

About Jacob Beck

Aside from his positions as York Research Chair and associate professor in the Department of Philosophy, Beck is also a member of York’s Cognitive Science program, which he directed from 2018-22; the Centre for Vision Research; and the Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA) program. Beck’s research makes progress on longstanding philosophical puzzles about the mind by reconceptualizing them in light of contemporary cognitive science. He has a special interest in pre-linguistic forms of mental representation, such as perception and the number sense.

York celebrates Markham Campus construction milestone and major gift

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop, York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton and Metropia Founder and CEO Howard Sokolowski
Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop, York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton and Metropia Founder and CEO Howard Sokolowski

A milestone event at the Markham Campus involved a ceremonial signing and installation of the final structural beam and a $5-million donation from Metropia.

Markham topping off
The final beam for the Markham Campus structure was moved into place during a topping off ceremony

York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton, together with dignitaries, University leadership, local community members and philanthropists, marked an important phase in the building of its new Markham Campus with a topping-off ceremony Feb. 1 and the announcement of a $5-million donation toward capital construction costs from Metropia, presented by Howard Sokolowski, a York alumnus and the company’s founder and CEO.

The milestone was recognized with a ceremonial signing of the final beam of the Markham Campus structure. The final structural I-beam was then lifted and placed by a crane – completing the building’s frame. 

The $5-million donation from Metropia and Sokolowski will go toward the capital construction costs of the campus. In honour of this gift, the student success centre on the first and second floors of the new building will be named the Metropia Student Success Centre.

Watch the video below for more on the topping off ceremony and gift announcement. The Markham Campus is set to open in Spring 2024.

‘Ghostly’ neutrinos provide new path to study protons

close up graphic image of atoms

Researchers in York’s Faculty of Science have discovered a new way to investigate the structure of protons using neutrinos, known as “ghost particles.”

Scientists are that much closer to understanding protons after using a novel technique involving a high-energy neutrino beam to precisely measure their size, which could change how these kinds of experiments are done and answer many more questions, say researchers from York University.

“We need detailed information about protons to answer questions like which neutrinos have more mass than others and whether or not there are differences between neutrinos and their anti-matter partners,” says Tejin Cai, York University postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the paper “Measurement of the axial vector form factor from antineutrino-proton scattering,” published in Nature on Feb. 1. “Our work is one step forward in answering the fundamental questions about neutrino physics that are the goal of these big science projects in the near future.”

The research involved a series of experiments with neutrinos, often referred to as “ghost particles,” over nearly a decade. It was part of the international MINERvA collaboration, which studies neutrinos at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab).

Magnetic focusing horn used in the beamline at Fermilab that produces neutrino beams for MINERvA
One of two magnetic focusing horns used in the beamline at Fermilab that produces neutrino beams for MINERvA and other neutrino experiments. Photo by Reidar Hahn, Fermilab.

“While we were studying neutrinos as part of the MINERvA experiment, I realized a technique I was using might be applied to investigate protons,” says Cai, who did the research – involving an international team of scientists – while completing his PhD in the lab of Kevin McFarland, the Dr. Steven Chu Professor in Physics and the acting vice-provost for academic affairs at the University of Rochester.

Deborah Harris

They found that the proton radius as seen by neutrinos is 0.73 femtometres – a quadrillionth of one metre.

“When we proposed MINERvA, we never thought we’d be able to extract measurements from the hydrogen in the detector,” says Professor Deborah Harris, a particle physicist in York’s Faculty of Science, a senior scientist at Fermilab and a co-spokesperson at MINERvA. “Making this work required great performance from the detector, creative analysis from scientists, and years of running the most intense high-energy neutrino beam on the planet.”

How do you measure a proton using neutrinos? That’s the novel part of this experiment. The use of a beam of neutrinos to investigate the structure of protons was once thought impossible. The MINERvA group used a high-power, high-energy particle accelerator, which produces the strongest source of high-energy neutrinos on the planet. This new technique offers scientists a new way of looking at the small components of an atom’s nucleus.

Although neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the universe, they are notoriously difficult to detect and study as they don’t have an electrical charge and nearly zero mass. They are often referred to as “ghost particles” because they rarely interact with atoms, but they play a large role helping scientists answer fundamental questions about the universe.

Atoms, and the protons and neutrons that make up an atom’s nucleus, are so small that researchers have a difficult time measuring them directly. Instead, they build a picture of the shape and structure of an atom’s components by bombarding atoms with a beam of high-energy particles. They then measure how far and at what angles the particles bounce off the atom’s components.

For example, if marbles were thrown at a box, they would bounce off it at certain angles, enabling someone to determine where the box was, its size and shape, even if the box was not visible.

“This is a very indirect way of measuring something, but it allows us to relate the structure of an object – in this case, a proton – to how many deflections we see in different angles,” says McFarland.

A new technique

A computer-rendered neutrino detector schematic as it appears in the journal Nature
A schematic of the MINERvA detector, including the support structure and access platform. The neutrino beam enters the detector from the left. Figure published in Nature.

Specifically, the researchers are hoping to use the technique to separate the effects related to neutrino scattering on protons from the effects related to neutrino scattering on atomic nuclei, which are bound collections of protons and neutrons.

“Our previous methods for predicting neutrino scattering from protons all used theoretical calculations, but this result directly measures that scattering,” says Cai.

McFarland adds, “By using our new measurement to improve our understanding of these nuclear effects, we will better be able to carry out future measurements of neutrino properties.”

What is a neutrino?

Neutrinos are created when atomic nuclei either come together or break apart. The sun is a large source of neutrinos, which are a byproduct of the sun’s nuclear fusion. If you stand in the sunlight, for example, trillions of neutrinos will harmlessly pass through your body every second.

Even though neutrinos are more abundant in the universe than electrons, it is harder for scientists to experimentally harness them in large numbers; neutrinos pass through matter like ghosts, while electrons interact with matter far more frequently.

“Over the course of a year, on average, there would only be interactions between one or two neutrinos out of the trillions that go through your body every second,” says Cai. “There’s a huge technical challenge in our experiments in that we have to get enough protons to look at, and we have to figure out how to get enough neutrinos through that big assembly of protons.”

A chemical trick

The researchers solved this problem in part by using a detector containing a target of both hydrogen and carbon atoms. A target of pure hydrogen wouldn’t be sufficiently dense for enough neutrinos to interact with the atoms.

“We’re performing a ‘chemical trick’, so to speak, by binding the hydrogen up into hydrocarbon molecules that make it able to detect sub-atomic particles,” McFarland says.

To isolate only the information from the hydrogen atoms, the researchers then had to subtract the background “noise” from the carbon atoms.

“The hydrogen and carbon are chemically bonded together, so the detector sees interactions on both at once,” Cai says. “I realized that a technique I was using to study interactions on carbon could also be used to see hydrogen all by itself once you subtract the carbon interactions. A big part of our job was subtracting the very large background from neutrinos scattering on the protons in the carbon nucleus.” 

Cai says the collective expertise of MINERvA’s scientists and the collaboration within the group was essential in accomplishing the research.

“The result of the analysis and the new techniques developed highlight the importance of being creative and collaborative in understanding data,” he added. “While a lot of the components for the analysis already exist, putting them together in the right way really made a difference, and this cannot be done without experts with different technical backgrounds sharing their knowledge to make the experiment a success.”

Year in Review 2022: Top headlines at York University, September to December

image of blocks that spell 2022

As a new year emerges, YFile takes a look back on 2022 to share with readers a snapshot of the year’s highlights. “Year in Review” will run as a three-part series and will feature a selection of top news stories published in YFile. Here are the stories and highlights for September to December, as chosen by YFile editors.


York receives $7.25M to use AI, big data in fight against infectious diseases
At a time when the risk of emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases (ERIDs) is increasing, an international team led by York University successfully competed to receive a $7.25-million grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to help tackle the issue.

Nuit Blanche at York University - photo by William Meijer
An installation at the Nuit Blanche exhibit at York University

Nuit Blanche comes to York University’s Keele Campus
As part of the celebrated arts festival Nuit Blanche 2022, the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) and York University presents Streams~Nuit Blanche, an evening of campus-wide exhibitions, art installations and events featuring 34 artists and showcasing 19 projects located around the central core of the Keele Campus.

Current student Katelyn Truong pictured with York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton in front of her selected artwork for the Markham Hoarding art installation
Current student Katelyn Truong pictured with York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton in front of her selected artwork for the Markham Hoarding art installation

YFile reaches 20-year milestone
York University’s source for faculty and staff news is celebrating its 20-year anniversary on Sept. 9. One of North America’s longest-running university newsletters, YFile is marking the date with a special issue.

Markham Campus art installation an expression of positive change
An art installation unveiled on Sept. 28 at York University’s Markham Campus highlights how amazing things happen when diverse communities work together to create positive change.


Kathleen Taylor
Kathleen Taylor

York University announces appointment of new chancellor
York University’s Board of Governors appointed Kathleen Taylor as York’s 14th chancellor to a three-year term, effective Jan. 1, 2023.  The appointment follows outgoing Chancellor Gregory Sorbara, who was first appointed in 2014 and is leaving the role after more than nine years of distinguished service to York.

World’s tiniest lecture hall presents big thinking on environmental threat
Lassonde School of Engineering Assistant Professor Shooka Karimpour reflects on her experience delivering a micro-lecture in the world’s tiniest lecture hall about our world’s growing problem of microplastics.

Announcing the 2022 Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars
York University has announced Sylvester Aboagye, Landing Badji, Leora Gansworth and Graeme Reed as this year’s recipients of the Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Black and Indigenous Scholars.

Global Strategy Lab awarded $8.7M to create AMR Policy Accelerator
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest threats humanity faces today. Decades of use, overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in animals and humans has led to the development of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that no longer respond to lifesaving antimicrobial medicines.


York researchers’ revamped AI tool makes water dramatically safer in refugee camps
A team of researchers from the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research and Lassonde School of Engineering have revamped their Safe Water Optimization Tool (SWOT) with multiple innovations that will help aid workers unlock potentially life-saving information from water-quality data regularly collected in humanitarian settings. 

The film poster for Beyond Extinction: Sinixt Resurgence
The film poster for Beyond Extinction: Sinixt Resurgence

York film professor’s documentary explores little-known struggle of the Sinixt people
Twenty-seven years in the making, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design Film Professor Ali Kazimi’s documentary about an autonomous Indigenous people’s struggle to overturn their legal extinction is set to receive its international premiere.

Osgoode students make their mark at Supreme Court of Canada
It’s a rare experience – even for seasoned lawyers, but a select group of students at Osgoode Hall Law School can now add the Supreme Court of Canada to their resumes through their work on a case that was heard Nov. 29.

Five York PhD students receive Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship
The award is intended to support first-rate doctoral students who demonstrate both leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in the fields of social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, engineering and health. The selection criteria include academic excellence, research potential and leadership. 


Osgoode grads earn clerkships at Canada’s highest court and beyond
Two recent graduates from Osgoode Hall Law School, Barbara Brown and Jennah Khaled, will both serve Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) justices through their upcoming 2023-24 clerkships. Many of their classmates are headed to similarly prestigious positions.

Lassonde’s k2i academy introduces teacher resources for de-streaming Grade 9 science in Ontario
EIn 2022, the Ontario Ministry of Education released the new Grade 9 de-streamed science curriculum. The k2i academy at the Lassonde School of Engineering was selected by the Ontario Ministry of Education to develop classroom-ready resources to support teachers across Ontario. After months of work, the new resource is now available.

Mohamed Sesay
Mohamed Sesay, co-ordinator of the African Studies Program

Black scholars form new interdisciplinary research cluster
A group of professors affiliated in various ways with York University’s African Studies Program join forces to create a unique, interdisciplinary research cluster focusing on adaptive knowledge, response, recovery and resilience in transnational Black communities.

The engine behind human gut microbiome analysis and data science
As his career unfolds, biostatistician Kevin McGregor is becoming very familiar with the human gut microbiome. His work is particularly relevant given the human biome is a community of microorganisms that inhabit our bodies and appears to be linked to numerous health concerns, both physical and mental.

This concludes YFile‘s Year in Review 2022 series. To see part one, January to April, go here. To see part two, May to August, go here.

Year in Review 2022: Top headlines at York University, May to August

image of blocks that spell 2022

As a new year emerges, YFile takes a look back on 2022 to share with readers a snapshot of the year’s highlights. “Year in Review” will run as a three-part series and will feature a selection of top news stories published in YFile. Here are the stories and highlights for May to August, as chosen by YFile editors.


Roojin Habibi
Roojin Habibi

Osgoode doctoral student named Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar
As the daughter of Kurdish migrants who were uprooted from their home after the 1979 Iranian revolution, Roojin Habibi was naturally drawn to the study and practice of human rights law. It was only later that the accomplished doctoral researcher at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University decided to dedicate herself to the pursuit of global health justice.

A new knowledge hub at Glendon takes aim at shortage of French language teachers
Demand for French-language education is on the rise as parents hope to give their children an edge in their lives and careers, but Canada is struggling to keep up with the need for French language teachers, with an estimated shortfall of 10,000 teachers across the country. The new Camerise hub seeks to resolve the dilemma.

Immersive audio experience takes listeners into the drug overdose crisis
Cinema and Media Arts Professor Brenda Longfellow has been working with Darkfield, a U.K. theatre company specializing in immersive audio, and Crackdown, a monthly podcast covering the drug war through the eyes of drug user activists, to produce Intravene to plunge listeners into the heart of the overdose crisis in Vancouver. 

Pandemic reveals systemic issues facing mothers
As families get ready to celebrate mothers this Mother’s Day with most COVID-19 pandemic related public health restrictions lifted, one York University motherhood expert says the pandemic has acted as a beacon to expose longstanding cracks in systems of caregiving, women’s rights and gender equality.


Graduands, alumni to cross stage in person during 2022 Spring Convocation
The long-standing tradition of graduating students crossing a stage to accept a diploma returned to York University’s Keele and Glendon Campuses when 2022 Spring Convocation was celebrated with in-person ceremonies for the first time since 2019.

Five faculty members receive 2022 President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards  
Five individuals who have considerably enhanced the quality of learning for York students are recipients of the 2022 President’s University-wide Teaching Awards.  

Daphene Solis works in the lab located in the Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellenc
Daphene Solis works in the lab located in the Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence

Passion for mechanical engineering leads grad student to explore 4D-bioprinting
York PhD student Daphene Solis is researching new ways to create a novel type of material that is similar to soft contact lenses, which can be used to grow artificial blood vessels for tissue engineering applications.

New funding expands use of VR technology in undergraduate chemistry teaching
Faculty of Science chemistry Professors Kyle Belozerov and Derek Jackson have received new funding to expand the use of virtual reality (VR) technology in chemistry courses to help students understand the structure and function of biological molecules at a deeper level.

York’s 2022 Schulich Leaders share passion for entrepreneurship
With the help of the Schulich Leader Scholarship program, two graduating high school students from the Greater Toronto Area are headed to York University this fall to begin their studies.


Professor Steven Hoffman takes new leadership role at Public Health Agency of Canada
York Professor Steven Hoffman will began a new role as vice-president corporate data and surveillance at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). As the former scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) Institute of Population and Public Health, he brings significant expertise to the agency to help shape the future of public health responses in Canada.

Paria Shahverdi (left) and Mona Frial-Brown (right)
Paria Shahverdi (left) and Mona Frial-Brown (right)

Mona Frial-Brown named recipient of the 2022 Lynda Tam Guiding Light and Legacy Award
The Advising Community of Practice and Peer Leader Community of Practice has selected Mona Frial-Brown, manager of student success and access programs in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), to receive the 2022 Lynda Tam Guiding Light and Legacy Award.

Lassonde professor’s work is a field of green
Lassonde Professor Gene Cheung partnered with a fintech agricultural company to improve crop yield predictions using graph signal processing and deep learning.

Astrophysicist Sarah Rugheimer appointed new Allan I. Carswell Chair for the Public Understanding of Astronomy
On July 1, Associate Professor Sarah Rugheimer began her appointment as the new Allan I. Carswell Chair for the Public Understanding of Astronomy in the Faculty of Science at York University.


New funding to deliver interdisciplinary, innovative training program in microsystems engineering 
Lassonde School of Engineering Professor Regina Lee, along with Associate Professor Pouya Rezai, Associate Professor Gerd Grau, Associate Professor Ozzy Mermut, Professor Peter Lian and six other faculty from across Canada, were awarded $1.65 million from NSERC to deliver an interdisciplinary, innovative training program in microsystems engineering.  

Sherman extension groundbreaking
A groundbreaking ceremony for the new, two-storey, state-of-the-art Neuroscience Laboratory and Research Building took place on July 27

Extension of York’s world-class research centre underway
Construction is underway for a new, two-storey, state-of-the-art Neuroscience Laboratory and Research Building at York University that will advance research and innovation while providing students with experiential education opportunities.

Maya Chacaby

York invests in Indigenous experiential education curriculum
York University’s Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) has invested in Biskaabiiyaang: The Indigenous Metaverse to develop its Indigenized curriculum and create experiential education opportunities. Professor Maya Chacaby, a Sociology Department faculty member at Glendon Campus, is the project lead and Biskaabiiyaang’s chief visionary.

Markham Campus to offer three programs at IBM Learning Space in Fall 2023
York University will welcome its first cohort of Markham Campus students in Fall 2023 with three Markham programs offered through the University’s partnership with IBM.

Check back in the next edition of YFile for Year in Review 2022: Top headlines at York University, September to December. To see part one, January to April, go here.

Year in Review 2022: Top headlines at York University, January to April

image of blocks that spell 2022

As a new year emerges, YFile takes a look back on 2022 to share with readers a snapshot of the year’s highlights. “Year in Review” will run as a three-part series and will feature a selection of top news stories published in YFile. Here are the stories and highlights for January to April, as chosen by YFile editors.


SEEC helps develop Business Recovery Project for York Region, Aurora Chamber
York Region entrepreneurs were offered free access to the Schulich Executive Education Centre’s (SEEC) Certificate in Business Essentials course thanks to the leadership of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and the support of the provincial government, York Region, Town of Aurora, and the York Region Chambers of Commerce.

THE Banner for Sustainable YU

York University launches report on progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals
The UN Sustainable Development Goal Report is York University’s first annual progress report on the SDGs. Both the report and its accompanying website share stories of progress and facts about York University’s leadership, commitment and progress toward the 17 goals through inspirational stories, facts and figures, and forward-looking action.

York researchers publish novel findings on role of tumor suppressor protein in muscle health
In a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Jonathan Memme, lead author, PhD student in Kinesiology and Health Science (KAHS), Ashley Oliveira, contributing author, PhD student in KAHS, and David A. Hood, senior author, professor and Tier I Canada Research Chair, and director of the Muscle Health Research Centre (MHRC), show that the importance of p53 is most evident under stress conditions where the maintenance of mitochondrial function is essential.

Melissa Grelo and Emmanuella Owusu
Melissa Grelo and Emmanuella Owusu

Emmanuella Owusu is the inaugural recipient of Melissa Grelo Entrance Award for Black and Indigenous Excellence
First-year Bachelor of Commerce in Information Technology student Emmanuella Owusu was awarded the Melissa Grelo Entrance Award for Black and Indigenous Excellence. The award is granted to a woman entering the first year at the School of Information Technology or the Department of Economics, in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS).


York Capstone Network partnership with BHER expands opportunities for students
The partnership with the Business + Higher Education Roundtable (BHER) provides more experiential learning (EE) opportunities that give students hands-on experience and help develop skills that enable them to create impact and drive positive change.

The project, titled “Teaching Against Anti-Black Racism and Toward Black Inclusion,” was conducted as part of the Dean’s Award for Research Excellence (DARE) program for undergraduate students enrolled in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS)

DARE project leads to first-of-its-kind Black Canadian readings and film database
A research project aimed to redress ideologies and systems of anti-Black racism in the University has culminated in a first-of-its-kind database for Black Canadian readings and films.

York University establishes research fund to support Black scholars
The York Black Research Seed Fund provides $150,000 in funding and mentorship to support the research activities of Black academics. The fund aims to promote equitable and inclusive funding to set roots for research projects and support future growth.

All aboard! Next stop is the autonomous train
Autonomous cars conjure images of beetle-like vehicles zipping around the streets, but what about the potential of autonomous rail transport? One researcher at the Lassonde School of Engineering is bringing this vision to life and it has the potential to significantly improve a nation’s ability to transport both passengers and freight.


Provostial Fellows deliver on academic priorities and SDGs
York University’s Provostial Fellows made steady progress on the University Academic Plan priorities and fulfilling the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

York University releases inaugural Annual Report on Black Inclusion
The annual report comes one year after York released the guiding documents Addressing Anti-Black Racism: A Framework on Black Inclusion and the accompanying Action Plan on Black Inclusion: A Living Document for Action (2021) to the University community for consultation and review.


Do octopuses, squid and crabs have emotions?
Octopuses can solve complex puzzles and show a preference for different individuals, but whether they, and other animals and invertebrates, have emotions is being hotly debated and could shake up humans’ moral decision-making, says York philosophy Professor Kristin Andrews, an expert in animal minds.

York leads team to establish $5.45M national mental health research and training platform
Faculty of Health Professor Rebecca Pillai Riddell will lead a revolutionary, multi-million dollar research training initiative that will support a more diverse, inclusive, accessible and transdisciplinary approach to mental health research and training.


photo of camera
The new MCL offers equitable access to space, equipment and resources for students and faculty who are creating multimedia as part of learning, research and teaching

York University’s Scott Library opens Media Creation Lab for research and teaching 
A new Media Creation Lab in the Scott Library provides students and faculty with access to new teaching and hands-on learning opportunities that span across disciplines.

Federal budget earmarks $1.5M for Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora
Funds laid out in the federal government’s spring budget guaranteed long-term support for research and other initiatives at York University that create pathways to education for Black youth and future Black scholars.

Global Digital
The coalition is open to students, alumni, staff, faculty members and community partners, who will work together to advance the school’s efforts to promote an academic environment that is equitable, diverse and inclusive and is shaped by decolonizing principles

School of Global Health launches coalition to support equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization
A new Coalition of Support launched by York University’s School of Global Health (YSGH) will take steps to ensure that principles and practices of equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization (EDID) are built into the core of the school’s vision and living culture.

York professors receive awards from Government of Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund
Two York University researchers have received research awards from the Government of Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) special call for innovative approaches to research in the pandemic context.

Check back in the next edition of YFile for Year in Review 2022: Top headlines at York University, May to August.

York research shows AI better than human eye at predicting brain metastasis outcomes

To truly understand how the brain is working, Crawford says we have to know how the different areas of the brain, and different neurons in those areas, are connecting to each other

A recent study by York University researchers suggests an innovative artificial intelligence (AI) technique they developed is considerably more effective than the human eye when it comes to predicting therapy outcomes in patients with brain metastases.

The team hopes the new research and technology could eventually lead to more tailored treatment plans and better health outcomes for cancer patients.

Ali Sadeghi-Naini
Ali Sadeghi-Naini

“This is a sophisticated and comprehensive analysis of MRIs to find features and patterns that are not usually captured by the human eye,” says York Research Chair Ali Sadeghi-Naini, associate professor of biomedical engineering and computer science in the Lassonde School of Engineering, and lead on the study.

“We hope our technique, which is a novel AI-based predictive method of detecting radiotherapy failure in brain metastasis, will be able to help oncologists and patients make better informed decisions and adjust treatment in a situation where time is of the essence.”

Previous studies have shown that using standard practices, such as MRI imaging – assessing the size, location and number of brain metastases – as well as the primary cancer type and overall condition of the patient, oncologists are able to predict treatment failure (defined as continued growth of the tumour) about 65 per cent of the time. The researchers created and tested several AI models and their best one had an 83 per cent accuracy.

Brain metastases are a type of cancerous tumour that develops when primary cancers in the lungs, breasts, colon or other parts of the body are spread to the brain via the bloodstream or lymphatic system. While there are various treatment options, stereotactic radiotherapy is one of the more common, with treatment consisting of concentrated doses of radiation targeted at the area with the tumour.

“Not all of the tumours respond to radiation – up to 30 per cent of these patients have continued growth of their tumour, even after treatment,” said Sadeghi-Naini. “This is often not discovered until months after treatment via follow-up MRI.”

This delay is time patients with brain metastases cannot afford, as it is a particularly debilitating condition with most people succumbing to the disease between three months to five years after diagnosis. “It’s very important to predict therapy response even before that therapy begins,” Sadeghi-Naini added.

Using a machine-learning technique known as deep learning, the researchers created artificial neural networks trained on a large pool of data, then taught the AI to pay more attention to specific areas.

“When you look at an MRI, you see areas within or surrounding the tumour where the intensity and pattern is different, so you attend to those parts with your vision system more,” explained Sadeghi-Naini. “But an AI algorithm is blind to this. The attention mechanism we incorporated into the algorithm helps these AI tools to learn which part of these images are more important and put more weight on that for analysis and prediction.”

The study, now available online, has been published in the IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine. Partially funded by the Terry Fox Research Institute (TFRI), the modelling work was done at Sadeghi-Naini’s lab at York’s Keele Campus with York PhD student Ali Jalalifar, first author on the study. When it came to data acquisition and interpreting the results from more than 120 patients, the team was able to leverage York’s long-standing collaborative relationship with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. Other funders of the study included the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Hatch Memorial Foundation.

Sadeghi-Naini says that while more research needs to be done, the findings point to AI being a potentially significant tool in precision management of brain metastasis and even other types of cancer down the line.

The next step to adopting this as a clinical practice would be looking at a larger cohort with a multi-institutional data set, from there a clinical trial could be developed. “If standard treatments can be tailored for patients based on their response to treatments – that can be predicted before treatment even starts – there’s a good chance that the overall survival of the patients can be improved,” he concludes.

As part of its long‐standing program involving the best cancer researchers across Canada, the Terry Fox New Frontiers Program Project Grants, TFRI is funding further research in ultrasound and MRI for cancer therapy by Sadeghi-Naini and a team of clinicians and scientists based out of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre the amount of $6 million over the next six years. Sadeghi-Naini is leading the biomedical computational-AI core of the program, receiving $900,000 of that funding.

Watch the video of Sadeghi-Naini explaining the technology.