Centre for Feminist Research celebrates feminist scholarship with new award

Rear view of four diverse women

York University’s Centre for Feminist Research has launched the inaugural Medal for Excellence in Feminist Scholarship in Canada to support and raise the profile of the rich and diverse contributions of feminist scholars nationally.

Ena Dua, Bonita Lawrence and Meg Luxton.
From left to right: Ena Dua, Bonita Lawrence and Meg Luxton.

“This award is a reminder that feminist research matters and that feminists of all genders are producing rigorous, relevant research and writing for our times,” says Elaine Coburn, director of the Centre for Feminist Research. “It creates a space to celebrate all that is excellent in feminist scholarship, across Canada.”

The award was created with an anonymous donor to honour and bring visibility to the work of three York University faculty members – Ena Dua, Bonita Lawrence and Meg Luxton – who have set standards of excellence by transforming understanding of women’s everyday realities and struggles through anti-racist, Indigenous feminist and feminist political economy scholarship.

Dua is a professor and graduate director in sexuality and women’s studies in the School of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies who teaches critical race theory, anti-racist feminist theory, postcolonial studies and feminist theory. She has taken up the question of racial justice, from feminist perspectives, across all of her writing. She forthrightly confronts racial injustices in Canada, and her scholarship has unpacked racial, gendered inequities in the University with the aim of creating space for each and all voices in the academy.

Lawrence (Mi’kmaw), who teaches in the Indigenous Studies program, has taken up the questions of colonialism and Indigenous identity, especially centering the experiences of non-status and urban Indigenous people. Her important work has looked at Indigenous Peoples’ “fractured homelands” under colonialism and celebrated strong Indigenous women, their power and their agency, despite a genocidal context.

Luxton is a professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, and one of Canada’s best-known feminist political economists, with her work shedding new light on gender divisions of labour and the relationship between paid employment and unpaid domestic labour; working class lives, communities and class politics; and the history of the women’s movement, in Canada and internationally.

“We hope that the new award, in honouring these three scholars, makes clear the ways that feminisms must and does take up questions of racism, indigeneity and working class women’s lives as central to anti-oppressive feminist scholarship,” says Coburn. “Together, they inspire us to feminist scholarship that matters: scholarship that looks squarely at injustice and that celebrates and supports struggles for a more just world.”

Over the next 10 years, the medal will provide each recipient with $500, and winners will be invited to give a lecture at the Centre for Feminist Research – both to help further scholars and the Centre’s impact on the challenges still facing women today.

“We hope that others see this medal and CFR’s activities, more broadly, as contributing to important national and international conversations about women’s struggles for equality and our hopes for more just and liveable worlds,” says Coburn.

Applications for the Medal for Excellence in Feminist Scholarship in Canada will be evaluated by a committee of three faculty members. Those interested in being on the committee can write to cfr-coor@yorku.ca with their CV and one paragraph expressing their interest by Jan. 15, 2024.

Applications for the medal will open on Jan. 30, 2024 and the deadline is March 1, 2024 for submissions. The inaugural winner will be announced on May 1, 2024.

How one professor is engaging community to shrink York’s carbon footprint

York Professor Burkard Eberlein, from the Schulich School of Business, set out to reduce the University’s carbon emissions in his 2021-23 Provostial Fellowship.

Burkard Eberlein
Burkard Eberlein

Through the program, Fellows have traditionally engaged the community to take action on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Challenge – a key commitment of the University Academic Plan.

Eberlein’s project, “Advancing Carbon Neutrality at York: Reimagining Mobility,” took aim at reducing emissions from commuting and travel to studying, research and carrying out University business activities.

In 2022, Eberlein surveyed York community members about their travel and commuting routines, and this year he released a video highlighting the University’s current carbon footprint with a call to action suggesting how community members can help reduce it.

Here’s a look at the inspiration behind his work.

Q: What was the thinking behind creating this video and what did you hope to achieve?
A: I was looking for engaging and fun ways to communicate my findings to the wider community. I wanted this to be something we could all relate to and that would work as a call to action.

I worked with Alexandre Magnin, a francophone illustrator, who produced this animated video (available in English and French). Alex has a YouTube channel called “Sustainability illustrated” and he does excellent videos on sustainability that I have used before in my teaching. I provided the script and Alex produced this fantastic work to engage the community in thinking about ways they can help York achieve its net zero before 2040 target.

Q: What are some concrete ways community members can make an impact?
A: First thing, just be more mindful of the choices that you make when it comes to commuting and travel. Many of us have habits and routines that we can examine more closely. For example, if you’re driving to campus regularly, are there ways you can set up a car pool with colleagues or classmates? This would be a small but meaningful, positive change.

Bike share station on York University's Keele campus
A bike share station on York University’s Keele Campus.

Below are some concrete steps that people can take, along with advocating to get more community members involved:

  • Taking the bus or the subway can reduce emissions by around six (bus) and 30 (subway) times compared to driving alone. 
  • Walking and biking generate virtually no emissions and York is investing in bike share programs
  • Driving an electric car typically generates a third of the emissions compared to fossil fuel vehicles. 
  • When driving a car, the more people in it the more efficient it becomes. 
  • Make your business travel count and consider whether you can deliver a presentation remotely or think about conference travel sustainably. 

Q: What is your biggest takeaway or lesson learned from this project?
A: Change is hard and it requires both passion and perseverance. Begin with small steps and make sure to involve all of your fellow community members and partners. By coming together, we can show what is possible to right the future.

Eberlein is co-chair of the Transportation Working Group that will develop proposals in this area (e.g. York business travel policy), in the context of York’s new sustainability framework. He is also looking forward to sharing his comprehensive slide deck and report on how York can reduce carbon emissions from commuting and business travel when it is officially released.

Learn more about Eberlein’s work as a curricular champion to support the UN SDGs and his work to engage students in reducing York’s carbon footprint. 

Watch the video here:

Dahdaleh grad students showcase global health research

Global health

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

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

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

This year’s presentations are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schulich Startups opens entrepreneurship office

Students working together in a workspace rom

York University’s Schulich School of Business recently opened new office space for Schulich Startups, which leads the development of the school’s accelerator and incubator services and helps support aspiring and established student entrepreneurs.

Schulich Startups office space
Schulich Startups new office space.

Located on the second floor of the Dezsö J. Horváth Executive Learning Centre, the new facility represents the school’s ongoing commitment to fostering an innovative and collaborative startup ecosystem. It is equipped with the following workspaces that cater to the varying needs of the student entrepreneurship community:

  • Founders Workspace (Private Lounge): tailored to startup founders seeking a quiet area for deep, focused work or confidential discussions.
  • Media Room: equipped with advanced podcasting technology, this room is ideal for startup founders and entrepreneurship-focused student clubs hosting podcasts, conducting interviews and creating multimedia content.
  • Conference Room: this versatile space can host up to 15 participants and is perfect for workshops, seminars and guest lectures, as well as Schulich “Idea Jams” with portfolio companies.
  • Co-working Space: a dynamic, collaborative environment for startup teams to come together.

“The new office space will facilitate the continued growth and development of the Schulich Startups community, which now includes more than 200 companies and over 3,000 members, and which is dedicated to creating the next generation of Schulich entrepreneurs and innovators,” said Schulich Dean Detlev Zwick.

For more information about Schulich Startups, visit schulich.yorku.ca/schulich-startups.

York-developed safe water innovation earns international praise

Child drinking water from outdoor tap water well

The Safe Water Optimization Tool (SWOT), an innovative technology used to help humanitarian responders deliver safe water in crisis zones, developed by two professors in York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering and Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, was recently highlighted as a success story in two international publications.

Syed Imran Ali

Built by Syed Imran Ali, an adjunct professor at Lassonde and research Fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute, in collaboration with Lassonde Associate Professor Usman Khan, the web-based SWOT platform generates site-specific and evidence-based water chlorination targets to ensure water remains safe to drink all the way to the point of consumption. It uses machine learning and process-based numerical modelling to generate life-preserving insight from the water quality monitoring data that is already routinely collected in refugee camps.

One of the SWOT’s funders, the U.K.-based ELRHA Humanitarian Innovation Fund, recently published a case study on the tool to serve as an example of a successful humanitarian innovation.

As a result of that publication, the SWOT was then highlighted as a success story in another case study, this time in the U.K. government’s latest white paper, titled “International development in a contested world: ending extreme poverty and tackling climate change.”

Water quality staff tests chlorination levels in household stored water at the Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan. Photo by Syed Imran Ali.

“These international recognitions highlight the impact our research is having on public health engineering in humanitarian operations around the world,” explained Ali.

As his team works to scale up the SWOT globally, he believes these publications will help increase awareness of and confidence in the technology. “We’re excited to build new partnerships with humanitarian organizations and help get safe water to the people who need it most,” he said.

For more information about the Safe Water Optimization Tool, visit safeh2o.app.

To learn more about how this innovation is advancing, read this YFile story.

York students engaged in heart, brain research earn inaugural award

medical hospital research brain black doctor

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

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

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

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

The recipients from York University are:

Patrick Hewan

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

Toluwanimi Faromika

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

CeAnn Marks

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

Ngozi Iroanyah

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

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

AMS Healthcare awards fund York research on history of medicine

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

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

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

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

Jody Hodgins

Jody Hodgins
Jody Hodgins

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

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

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

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

Kenton Kroker

Kenton Kroker
Kenton Kroker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Centre for Vision Research conference to spotlight latest vision science

retina biometric scan

York University’s Centre for Vision Research (CVR) will host the Vision Research Conference 2023 from Dec. 4 to 7 and welcome guests from across North America and Europe to the Second Student Centre. Titled “The New VISTAs in Vision Research,” the conference will feature discussions around cutting-edge, transdisciplinary approaches to vision science.

The long-running conference is part of CVR’s ongoing mission to pursue world-class, interdisciplinary research and training in visual science and its applications. That extends to the collaborative Vision Science to Applications (VISTA) program, funded by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, which looks to build on York’s expertise in biological and computer vision.

The three-day conference will feature programming that includes several lectures, as well as interactive events such as lab visits, poster sessions, presentations and industry exhibitions.

Lecture sessions – featuring professors from Canada, the U.S., Germany and Ireland, among others – will highlight a range of interdisciplinary subjects, including visual cognition, creative visualizations, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Among participating York faculty are Richard Wildes, associate director of VISTA and a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair, who will give the opening keynote; Jane Tingley, an associate professor in computational arts; and Doug Crawford, Distinguished Research Professor, Canada Research Chair in visuomotor neuroscience and scientific director of the Connected Minds program, who will provide the closing keynote. CVR Director Robert Allison will open the conference with welcoming remarks.

Further information about the New VISTAs in Vision Research conference can be found here: yorku.ca/cvr/conference2023.

Those interested in registering can do so here: eventbrite.ca/e/cvr-vista-coference-new-vistas-in-vision-research-tickets-597849192027.

Professor wins Petro-Canada Emerging Innovator Award

Molecule of DNA forming inside the test tube equipment

Bill Kim, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, has received the 2023 Petro-Canada Emerging Innovator Award to support his cutting-edge biological chemistry and genome editing research program.

While point mutations in DNA, caused by replication errors or environmental damage, are found in clinical samples from cancer patients, the role of most mutations in causing disease is unknown, impeding the development of new therapeutics. The award will enable Kim to develop new methods of creating genetic mutations in cells to better understand and treat diseases.

Bill Kim
Bill Kim

Leveraging a gene editing technology called clustered regular interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and a CRISPR-derivative technology called “base editing” that he co-invented, Kim aims to target disease-associated DNA sequences in cell cultures and create various point mutations to study their impact on protein and cellular function. He will engineer a class of proteins known as DNA glycosylases, which remove the nucleotide bases within DNA; when bases are removed, the cell repairs them by introducing one of the four nucleotides in a semi-random manner. This innovative method will generate diverse mutations that can be studied further to understand their impact on disease. Kim’s approach is anticipated to be more efficient than the conventional base editing strategy he originally co-developed.

Kim is an emerging world leader in genome editing technology development. Throughout his scientific career spanning 11 years, his work on genome editing technology development has been published in world-class journals including Nature, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Communications and Science Advances, collectively accruing more than 5,400 citations. The CRISPR base editing technology that he co-invented is a revolutionary genome editing method that has gained widespread adoption in hundreds of laboratories worldwide. The technology was a finalist for Science magazine’s 2017 Breakthrough of the Year.

The Petro-Canada Emerging Innovator Award is given to outstanding new full-time faculty members beginning their academic career at York University. The awards program is a commitment by Petro-Canada (now Suncor Energy) and York University to encourage excellence in teaching and research that will enrich the learning environment and contribute to society.

Federal grant supports innovative project to improve Canadian digital health care


A three-year grant totalling $500,000 will fund a collaborative project between York University Professor Maleknaz Nayebi and RxPx, a company that creates and supports digital health solutions.

Maleknaz Nayebi

Naybei is a professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and a member of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Society (CAIS). CAIS unites researchers who are collectively advancing the state of the art in the theory and practice of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, governance and policy. The research includes a focus on AI systems addressing societal priorities in health care.

The funding, awarded by the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Alliance Grant program, will support the development of the Digital Health Defragmenter Hub (DH2).

Alliance Grants support university researchers collaborating with partner organizations to “generate new knowledge and accelerate the application of research results to create benefits for Canadians.”

This collaborative project aims to address the intricate challenges within the Canadian digital health-care landscape by integrating advanced software engineering principles with machine-learning algorithms.

The project’s goal is to develop a software platform dedicated to digital health services. Currently, digital health services are designed and offered in isolation from other social, economic or health services, says Nayebi, adding that this results in inharmonious digital health care where many services overlap, while many pain points and requirements remain untacked.

“Lack of co-ordination among providers, the inability of patients to choose services and make open decisions, the rigidity of the market toward digital innovations and isolation of providers are known as the main barriers in the Canadian digital health-care ecosystem,” says Nayebi. “In this ecosystem, the physicians act as service-supply-side monopolists, exercising significantly more power than their demand-side patients. A survey conducted by Price Waterhouse Cooper showed the unpreparedness of the ecosystem, where only 40 per cent could envision a collaboration with other organizations. This further leads to increased inequality within the health-care system. In contrast, 62 per cent of American-based active health-care organizations had a digital health component in their strategic plan.”

DH2 is a platform that brings together open innovation in health care, allowing health-care providers to deliver personalized services to the public. The project is aimed to provide software and AI-based technology that makes digital health services more affordable and accessible to a broader population, integrates innovative business strategies for new entrants or low-end consumers, and creates a value network where all stakeholders benefit from the proliferation of innovative technologies.

“DH2 serves as a marketplace where not only can individuals with basic health-care services contribute, but it also features AI-driven matchmaking services, connecting patients with the specific demands of health-care providers and caregivers,” says Nayebi.

In this capacity, DH2 addresses the defragmentation in the wellness and health ecosystem by enabling users and user communities.

“DH2 goes beyond just connecting people; it also uses machine learning to help patients make informed decisions about their digital health-care options. Such platforms can act as the governing and strategic solution for leading market and innovation, and provide faster time to market by assisting providers in their deployment, distribution and monetization processes. They provide even access to information for all parties and effectively reduce inequalities.”

In addition, platforms add to the geographic diversity of participants. Moreover, says Nayebi, the platform enhances the diversity of participants across different geographic locations, establishing an ecosystem that enables quicker responses to disruptive events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.