Astronomer in Residence program offers hands-on experience to stargazers

Starry sky reflecting on lake at Lost Lake, USA

Applications are now open for York University’s 2024 Astronomer in Residence (AIR) program, an initiative led by the Allan I. Carswell Observatory in partnership with Killarney Provincial Park allowing qualified individuals to enjoy astronomy under the park’s dark skies and lead programming using its observatory. This year’s program runs from May 13 to Oct. 20.

Launched in 2022, the program calls on qualified astronomers – both professional and amateur – to apply to be an astronomer in residence at Ontario’s Killarney Provincial Park for a period of one to three weeks this summer and fall. The selected individuals will be expected to run in-person tours two to five times a week and create observatory shows, YouTube livestreams and recorded video sessions, as well as author a blog. Participants are offered free parking and lodging, as well as a $400-per-week stipend for their residency.

The full summer schedule can be found on the program’s website.

Those interested in applying can do so via the application form. For more information about qualifications, visit the Candidate Expectations page.

Throughout the duration of the program, passionate stargazers can follow along through the Astronomer in Residence Blog and livestreams on the Allan I. Carswell Observatory YouTube page, or by attending live viewings and programming at Killarney Provincial Park.

Five York-led research projects receive over $3M in new CIHR funding

Aspire lightbulb idea innovation research

York University researchers are leading five projects awarded a combined total of more than $3 million in new funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Mark Bayfield in the Faculty of Science and Elham Dolatabadi, Skye Fitzpatrick, Anthony Scimè and Jeffrey Wardell in the Faculty of Health are among the latest recipients of CIHR’s Project Grants, which support a variety of health-related research initiatives from initial discovery to practical application.

“I extend my congratulations to these five exceptional faculty members whose projects hold promise for advancing health research, care and outcomes, both locally and globally,” said Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation. “CIHR’s Project Grants empower York researchers to continue to create positive change through their leadership and unique expertise in addressing many of today’s health-related challenges.”  

Bayfield’s project, “Regulation of gene expression by the La and La-related proteins,” received $921,825. His team will study the process of how genes are translated into proteins, advancing the understanding of the roles these proteins play in causing diseases and how human cells respond to stress.

Dolatabadi’s project, “The socioeconomic impact of the post-COVID-19 condition in the Canadian context,” received $100,000. Using machine learning, among other methods, Dolatabadi and her team will investigate how various societal and environmental factors such as gender and ethnicity affect the health of people with post-COVID-19 –condition (also known as long COVID) differently.

Fitzpatrick’s project, “A randomized controlled trial testing Safe: a brief intervention for people with borderline personality disorder, their intimate partners and their relationship,” received $952,425. The research tests a couple therapy for borderline personality disorder (BPD) developed by Fitzpatrick and her colleagues and compares it to the standard care couples receive when one member has BPD.

Scimè’s project, “A new paradigm for managing myogenic stem cell fates,” received $787,950. Scimè’s research aims to develop innovative treatments in regenerative medicine for neuromuscular disorders such as sarcopenia, a condition that causes muscle degeneration due to aging.

Wardell’s project, “Disentangling medicinal and recreational cannabis use among young adults,” received $374,852. The research team will analyze participant data collected from a smartphone app to better understand the distinctions between medicinal and recreational cannabis use and how factors like gender influence reasons for cannabis use.

The York-led projects are among 374 funded across the country in the Fall 2023 competition, totalling approximately $325 million.

Faculty of Science students, profs awarded for excellence

At the Faculty of Science’s annual honours and awards ceremony, several faculty and students received awards – including an inaugural one – recognizing their contributions in teaching and educational leadership.

The ceremony is organized every year to celebrate students, instructors and researchers who received awards and scholarships between September 2022 and August 2023 – as well as giving the Faculty a chance to bestow a few awards of its own.

This year, around 400 postdoctoral fellows and undergraduate and graduate science students were recognized by being given a chance to come up to the event’s stage at the Second Student Centre, on York’s Keele Campus, to be congratulated and applauded by their peers, supporters and mentors.

The event’s masters of ceremonies were Associate Dean of Students Michael Scheid and Associate Dean of Research and Partnerships Vivian Saridakis, who also announced the recipients of the Faculty of Science Excellence in Educational Leadership Awards – an inaugural award category – as well as the Excellence in Teaching Awards and Excellence in Research Awards.

The recipients of these awards were:

Excellence in Educational Leadership Award, Faculty category
Associate Professor Amenda Chow, Department of Mathematics & Statistics; and Chair and Associate Professor Vera Pavri, Department of Science, Technology & Society.

Excellence in Educational Leadership Award, Graduate Student category
PhD students Laura Keane and Yohana Solomon, Department of Mathematics & Statistics.

Excellence in Teaching Award, Junior Tenure Stream Faculty category
Assistant Professor Stephanie Domenikos, Department of Science, Technology & Society.

Excellence in Teaching Award, Contract Faculty category
Sessional Assistant Professor Charlotte de Araujo, Department of Biology.

Richard Jarrell Award of Excellence for Teaching Assistants
Recent MSc graduate Amanvir Virdi, Department of Biology.

Early Career Research Award
Associate Professor Elizabeth Clare, Department of Biology.

Established Research Award
Professor Randy Lewis, Department of Physics & Astronomy.

Excellence in Graduate Mentorship Award
Associate Professor Iain Moyles, Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

For more details about the awards and a full list of recipients, view the ceremony program booklet.

Passings: Pat Rogers

passings

Pat Rogers, a former York University faculty member, died on Jan. 21 at the age of 78, after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

Pat Rogers
Pat Rogers

Known to many as “Dr. Pat Rogers,” a title she would often roll her eyes at, she had a remarkable academic career that spanned several institutions and many roles.

Born just after the war, in Woking, England, to a Scottish mother and a Welsh father, Rogers spent her early years in Belfast, Northern Ireland, followed by Cardiff, Wales, before embarking on a mathematics degree at the University of Oxford – and being one of few women in her class of ’65.

While pursuing her PhD at the London School of Economics, she taught at North London Polytechnic, Goldsmiths’ College and the University of London’s Bedford College, and then relocated to Canada to become a faculty member in mathematics and education at York University in Toronto.

After being tenured as a full-time professor at York, Rogers became the founding director of the Centre of the Support of Teaching, and her legacy in that role remains in the form of a plaque in Vari Hall’s Seminar Room 3003. In keeping with what her former colleagues describe as her boisterous teaching style that demanded chairs and tables be moveable to encourage discussion, the plaque honouring her is the only thing in the room that is bolted down.

Rogers left York in 2000 to pursue two terms as dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor, where she helped develop community-focused programs and where she was consistently energized by a group of academics who remained her good friends. She ended her career as associate vice-president of teaching and learning at Wilfrid Laurier University.

During her career, Rogers was the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including the prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowship, an award she helped establish as president of the Society for Teaching & Learning in Higher Education. She was also the first Canadian and the first woman to be a appointed as the annual Pólya Lecturer for the Mathematical Association of America.

Diagnosed with cancer for the second time in 2021, Rogers continuously impressed her family, friends, and many health practitioners with the tenacious and spirited way she battled it – the same tenacity and spirit that made its mark at York University and beyond.

Seminar series examines impact of scientific, technological advances

Interplay of abstract geometry structure and numbers on subject of computing, virtual reality and education.

The series, sponsored by the Department of Science, Technology & Society in York’s Faculty of Science and co-ordinated by its members, is the oldest continuously running seminar series at the University. It began in the early 1990s, when the STS department was still housed in Atkinson College, and while much has changed and advanced since then, one thing hasn’t: the series continues to welcome all members of the York community who are curious about STS.

Below is a summary of the seminars scheduled for the Winter 2024 term.

Alina Wernick
Alina Wernick

Jan. 30 “Human Rights-Based Governance of Smart City Technologies” presented by Alina Wernick, University of Helsinki

The public sector has been rapidly adopting smart city technologies in areas ranging from law enforcement and transportation to health care. These technologies have implications on a wide range of fundamental human rights. To mitigate these risks, several scientific communities have proposed human rights-based approaches to govern algorithmic, biometric and smart city technologies.

In this presentation, Wernick will explain the theoretic background of each of the approaches in the light of recent research published in the Internet Policy Review special issue, which she co-edited. She will also discuss the temporal dimensions of these human rights risk-mitigation measures as well as geopolitical tensions affecting the two approaches.

Matthew L. Jones

Feb. 13 “Social Experts Within and Without: Social Epistemologies and the Netflix Competition in the Making of Machine Learning” presented by Matthew L. Jones, Princeton University

From 2006 to 2009, the Netflix video streaming service sponsored a competition to improve predictions about which films their customers would rank highly and lowly. In this presentation, Jones will use that competition as a way to explore how the social behaviours and thinking of those who create algorithmic models impact those models themselves. In other words, he will show that the well-known problems with machine learning systems in many ways stem from the inadequate sociality of machine learning and its makers.

Shane O'Donnell
Shane O’Donnell

March 26 – “Transformations in Diabetes Care: Lessons from Commons-based, Peer-produced Citizen Science” presented by Shane O’Donnell, University College Dublin

Social and technological trends have enabled the emergence and re-emergence of different forms of citizen science in the form of do-it-yourself communities, maker movements and user-led innovations. In particular, the growth of social networks, big data and distributed manufacturing technologies are enabling communities to modify and produce medical technologies to better meet their needs across a range of chronic conditions. Despite this, most instances of peer-produced citizen science have remained at the periphery of the health-care system.

In this seminar, O’Donnell will use the diabetes community’s #WeAreNotWaiting movement – demanding faster access to treatments and technologies to help manage their condition – as a real-world example of where this type of citizen science has gone beyond the fringes of medicine and health care. Drawing on the literature on commons-based peer production and citizen science, he will show how a self-organized community of people with diabetes developed open-source innovations that not only helped them meet their own medical needs, but have also been shown to be more advanced than similar innovations produced within the traditional model of medical innovation. He will show how this community has changed the medical landscape in the process.

All events in the series will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. and will be accessible via the following Zoom link: yorku.zoom.us/j/93913086494?pwd=RGVvelVYZCtQZmdjQUdUUkpMeXY4QT09.

For more information on the series, contact the seminar series co-ordinator Hélène Mialet at hmialet@yorku.ca

Pioneering York physicist honoured with memorial fund

formulas on blackboard banner

York University science alumni Itay and Mina Yavin have donated $200,000 to the Department of Physics & Astronomy in honour of late Professor Helen Freedhoff, a pioneering theoretical physicist, to create a memorial fund supporting students in the department.

Itay Yavin
Itay Yavin, the York alumn whose gift donation led to the creation of the Helen Freedhoff Memorial Fund. To his left is an image of Helen Freedhoff.

The gift will create the the Helen Freedhoff Memorial Fund, with a focus on supporting student mentorship and research at the undergraduate level. Specifically, it will further enable research in the lab of Professor Anantharaman Kumarakrishnan’s Atomic Physics Research Group.

It will also establish the Helen Freedhoff First Year Award for select entering domestic and international undergraduate students admitted into the Department of Physics & Astronomy with high academic achievement and a passion for science.

“We are thrilled to give back to York University, where we spent formative years, and to collaborate with the Faculty of Science to memorialize Professor Freedhoff’s life and work,” said Itay Yavin, who was personally mentored and supervised by Freedhoff. “We hope the funds will foster excellence in students’ research at the physics and astronomy department. We are excited that the funds will also support the lab of Professor Kumarakrishnan, whose devotion to students’ research and development over the past two decades truly exemplifies Professor Freedhoff’s legacy.”  

When she joined York University in 1967, Freedhoff was the first woman physics faculty member on a Canadian University campus. She worked to develop a new theory to describe novel physical phenomena in strongly coupled light-plus-atom systems. Her research focused on the areas of co-operative atomic effects, intense field resonance fluorescence and two-photon transitions. These remain important contributions to the field today.

The donation was celebrated on Monday, Jan. 15 with a plaque-unveiling ceremony and a dedication of the Helen Freedhoff Meeting Room in the Petrie Science & Engineering Building. The ceremony was attended by Freedhoff’s family, the donors and their family, members of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, and other science community members. The ceremony was followed by a tour of Kumarakrishnan’s lab.

“It’s so wonderful to see this relationship come full circle, where the student and mentee is now giving back so much to our Faculty, just as his mentor did,” said Rui Wang, dean, Faculty of Science. “I’m so pleased that Professor Freedhoff’s legacy – her important research contributions, her trailblazing career as a woman physicist, and her attention to and care for her students – has been memorialized with this donation that will benefit so many science students, current and future. This donation exemplifies the spirit of the Faculty of Science, working collaboratively and solving challenges head on in innovative ways that will benefit our community and beyond.”

York researcher traverses tick-infested terrain to beat back insect apocalypse 

PhD student Hadil Elsayed in the field. Photo: Briann Dorin

By Corey Allen, senior manager, research communications 

Academic research is often perceived to involve a lot of books and library visits, but Hadil Elsayed’s PhD work studying insects at York University has involved choppy boat rides, off-road all-terrain vehicle (ATV) adventures and one particularly nasty trek through a swamp.  

Hadil Elsayed headshot
Hadil Elsayed

“I joke that my PhD defence will include a graph that shows the number of cuts and bruises I’ve had to endure for my research,” says the budding entomologist, who is in the fourth year of her PhD in the Department of Biology.  

Jokes aside, Elsayed’s research into the effects of climate change on insects is no laughing matter. In fact, her work is adding to an increasing number of studies that reveal insects are disappearing. It’s a troubling phenomenon dubbed “the insect apocalypse.”  

Current scientific evidence suggests insects across various species and regions are in global decline and are decreasing in terms of population, biomass and diversity. This has serious consequences for the health of our ecosystems, as insects are crucial for pest control, soil quality and pollination, or plant reproduction. Insects travel between different plants, helping them grow by leaving behind pollen grains. These plants can then be harvested as an energy source for humans and other living organisms, including birds that depend on insects for food.

Hadil Elsayed collects a sample from one of her malaise traps. Photo: Briann Dorin
Hadil Elsayed on a boat. Photo: Briann Dorin
Hadil Elsayed on a boat. Photo: Briann Dorin

“Many of these decline studies are coming out of Europe, so my research explores to what extent we are seeing this same trend here in Canada,” says Elsayed, whose work is supervised by leading conservation scientist Sheila Colla, an associate professor in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change. “As far as I know, research into biodiversity loss within protected areas at this level has not yet taken place in this country or in North America.” 

Elsayed’s research spans 13 sites, primarily in the Long Point Biosphere Reserve three hours southwest from Toronto, off the shores of Lake Erie. It’s an ecologically significant area, made up of several distinct natural habitats including woodlands, marshes, beaches, meadows and sand dunes, among others. Protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization, the area is home to a wide range of plants and animals, including many aquatic birds and species at risk.   

To collect all the insect specimens for study, Elsayed used malaise traps, tent-like structures that are set up in the direction of the wind to catch insects flying upwards into jars of ethanol. Elsayed collected hundreds of samples biweekly, or sometimes weekly, in the summery months of May through August.  

Setting up all the traps in the right places and monitoring them means Elsayed often had to brave the wilderness and all its elements, including tick-infested terrain.   

“I would have to stop every two minutes to pick ticks off me or shoo away all the mosquitoes,” she says. “I complained a lot while I was out there, but it’ll be worth it if it means I can help protect biodiversity and make a meaningful contribution to the field of entomology.”

An example of one of Elsayed’s malaise traps.
An example of one of Elsayed’s malaise traps.

With help from a guide from the Long Point Bird Observatory, Elsayed travelled to some sites that are only accessible by going off-trail – by ATV, by boat or by bushwhacking. The demanding task of collecting samples also entailed a month-long stint living alone in a cabin, where the only visitors Elsayed entertained were some rather unwelcome cockroaches.  

Back at the lab, Elsayed processes her samples and sorts, weighs and analyzes hundreds of insects. Her research specifically focuses on the insects that live in protected areas, like Long Point, which should be safer from environmental stressors than insects found in urban ecosystems or cities – in theory.  

But some of Elsayed’s early findings show these protected areas are also suffering, experiencing a decline of up to 200 grams in biomass. This translates to a loss of hundreds of thousands of insects. These findings are possible because Elsayed can compare data collected from the same sites in the early 1990s by the Canadian Wildlife Service against the data she has gathered 30 years later.  

“Preliminary results indicate that climate change is a factor in insect decline, even in protected areas, and various climate stressors are behind their disappearance,” explains Elsayed. “For one group of insects, the main driver for their decline appears to be a decrease in rainfall. For another, it’s linked to an increase in temperature.”  

Recently, Elsayed presented parts of her work at an annual conference held by the Entomological Society of America, with over 3,600 attendees. She was awarded first place in the Student Competition for the President’s Prize, recognizing her efforts to advance climate change research. 

With her strenuous field work completed, Elsayed is currently working on writing her dissertation, with a projected PhD completion date in early 2025.  

Her work is funded by York University, the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Entomological Society of Canada.  

Passings: Allan Stauffer

A field of flowers at sunset

Allan Stauffer, a long-serving professor and professor emeritus of mathematical physics at York University specializing in atomic scattering theory, passed away on Dec. 15.

allan stauffer
Allan Stauffer

Stauffer specialized in atomic, molecular and optical physics, in particular theoretical research on the scattering of electrons and positrons from atoms and simple molecules.

During his nearly four decades at York, Stauffer’s work often involved collaborating with graduate students and international co-workers to perform large-scale numerical computations (focused on scattering from heavy atoms) and developing theoretical and numerical methods to carry them out.

For example, he was involved in the development of the successful relativistic distorted-wave method for evaluating the scattering cross-sections as well as the spin polarization parameters for the scattered electrons and the Stokes parameters for the light emitted from atoms excited during the scattering interactions.

Over the course of his career, he was involved with over 300 publications and more than 4,000 citations.

Beyond his academic work, he was a keen hiker, canoeist and cross-country skier.

Stauffer’s family will receive those who wish to pay their respects at the Gilbert MacIntyre & Son Funeral Home in Guelph, Ont., on Friday, Dec. 22 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. A celebration of life will be held in the Hart Chapel at 11:30 a.m., followed by a reception.

If desired, memorial donations can be made to Amnesty International Canada or the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Professors help racialized grad students navigate academy 

Two Black women sitting on a couch in conversation

By Elaine Smith 

In a desire to commit, in material ways, to York University’s Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (DEDI) Strategy, the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) held several roundtable discussions at its Faculty Council. From these discussions, a motion to infuse a commitment to DEDI into the standing committees of FGS council was passed. 

The roundtables revealed lived experience of Black graduate student isolation and a pressing need for mentorship and community building. FGS hosted several conversations with Black graduate faculty, folding in Black graduate students to co-create a plan to address isolation and lack of community. It culminated in a Fall 2023 community gathering

The Faculty’s work to reduce isolation and build community reflects an earlier FGS commitment to “partner with various programs at York and in the broader community to identify and dismantle the barriers that arise serially and increase over time to disadvantage and dissuade Black students from pursuing graduate studies, especially doctoral studies, in every discipline.”

Professor Mohamed Sesay,co-ordinator of the African Studies Program, presenting Zakirah Allain with the Esiri Dafiewhare award in African Studies in 2023.
Professor Mohamed Sesay presenting Zakirah Allain with the Esiri Dafiewhare award in African Studies in 2023.
Jude Kong
Professor Jude Kong engages in his passion for mathematics.

Mentorship is a valuable way of assisting Black and racialized students in overcoming barriers to pursuing and thriving in graduate scholarship, offering students personal insights and support. Mohamed Sesay and Jude Kong, two Black professors who teach courses and supervise graduate students, shared their thoughts with Innovatus on their own approaches to mentoring racialized students. 

Sesay, an assistant professor of African studies and a native of Sierra Leone, views the barriers as an institutional challenge arising from their history. He realizes that universities were designed for immigrants who arrived here from 18th- or 19th-century Europe, making it clear to him that those from other cultures may find additional challenges in adjusting. He makes a conscious effort to serve as a mentor for graduate students from racialized backgrounds; eight of his 10 current graduate students are racialized. 

“Institutions of higher education in western countries weren’t created for people like me,” said Sesay. “As a result, the structures, the rules and expectations, the standards and requirements were not put in place to accommodate graduate students like me or to help us thrive in the same way as non-racialized students. 

“In order to do well, there are other issues for us that arise from the structures in place that someone who isn’t racialized may not be able to identify. People may not realize that many racialized students have grown up somewhere else, so they aren’t exposed to the same experiences as those who grew up in Canada. They come with a history that is different and it requires an effort to feel as if they belong to this space.” 

Sesay said programs are opening space and incorporating decolonization, equity, diversity and inclusion, but “there is still a long way to go. If there were no issues with equality, we wouldn’t need DEDI. 

“It’s not as if we’re compromising our standards,” he continued. “We expect racialized students to meet the same rigorous academic standards and expect them to be critical and creative thinkers, but we can’t be insensitive to other issues they’re dealing with, or they may not be able to fully realize their potential.” 

In teaching and supervising racialized graduate students, Sesay takes the need to support them seriously and devotes time to connecting with them. 

“I show understanding and empathy and try to share the challenges that I went through myself,” Sesay said. “I’m ready to talk with them and explore what they need to do to overcome challenges. I make myself available and, sometimes, that means talking about issues beyond research that impact academic excellence.  

“I’m open to them, not dismissive. Canada is multicultural, but racialized minorities face difficulties trying to make this their home. I want to show them through my experience that it is possible for them to achieve excellence. There’s no straight roadmap or manual, but you can share understanding; you try to support them in navigating this space and boost their confidence.” 

Kong, an assistant professor of mathematics and founding director of the Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence & Data Innovation Consortium, bases his approach to mentoring racialized students on his personal experience growing up poor in rural Cameroon. 

Without the emotional support from his family and financial support from the women in his community, he feels he would never have been able to attend secondary school, let alone realize that greater opportunities existed. He tries to recreate this sense of familial support with his graduate students; all four of his postdoctoral Fellows (two of whom are Black) and four of his five graduate students (four of whom are Black) are from racialized backgrounds. 

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” said Kong. “You may grow up only being exposed to certain things; if you’re not aware of research, you won’t think about it; it’s not the typical subject of conversation around the dinner table. Most people choose their careers based on the signals picked up by their subconscious memories during their formative years – what is discussed at their dinner table and what they see around them. For Black students whose parents, uncles, guardians and ancestors were not exposed to these opportunities, it’s a different situation. The Black community needs more assistance to understand what the options are.” 

In the classroom, as well as in the research context, “I strive to create a sense of family where students are confident in voicing their opinions, just as they would at home. It’s a judgment-free zone where they can admit that they didn’t know something or ask for assistance without the fear of being judged,” said Kong. 

Kong also believes that building the students’ confidence is important, since, at a young age, they may have absorbed subconscious messages telling them that they don’t belong or can’t measure up to people from other races when it comes to fields like mathematics. He works to create an environment that is supportive, rather than competitive, because everyone has different talents. 

“Keeping them moving forward and allowing them to see that they can handle the work is crucial,” he said. “We’re adding more data points to their experience until they reach that tipping point where they feel comfortable. 

“I had nobody I could look up to growing up, but I had a community and allies who helped me go to school and housed me during my college days. My doctoral and postdoctoral supervisor were real advocates, and here at York, people like President Rhonda Lenton and Provost Lisa Philipps have created a structure and space to allow me to succeed. I want to help people like me who have no pathway. I want to show people who have nothing that here is someone from nowhere who has succeeded.” 

He added, “York University is about giving opportunities to those who otherwise wouldn’t have it. I call it Canada’s historically Black university.” 

York’s Framework on Anti-Black Racism states, “Going forward, we will be responsible and accountable to the diverse constituencies of our community including Black community members, recognizing that bringing about systemic change is everyone’s responsibility.” 

Both Sesay and Kong are role models in accepting that responsibility.   

Two profs earn awards for postdoctoral mentorship excellence

Audience clapping

York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) honoured two exceptional professors, Alison Crosby and Amro Zayed, with the Postdoctoral Supervisor Award during an FGS council meeting on Dec. 7. The award is presented annually to a faculty member in any department and program at York who demonstrates exemplary support for postdoctoral scholars.

This award serves to applaud Crosby and Zayed for exceeding general supervisory expectations to their postdoctoral Fellows while acknowledging the important work performed by both the professors and Fellows. Alice MacLachlan, vice-provost and dean of graduate studies, said the two recipients embody the award’s spirit of mentorship creativity, excellence and dedication. “You serve as a role model for all of us to follow,” she added.

“This is the kind of work that places York in the top 40 globally in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, through our work as a progressive, research-intensive institution,” said Lisa Philipps, provost and vice-president academic.

Alison Crosby

Alison Crosby
Alison Crosby

Crosby is an associate professor and interim Chair of the School of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies. Her research projects and publications use an anti-racist, anti-colonial and transnational feminist lens and participatory methodologies to support protagonists’ multifaceted struggles to redress and memorialize harm in the aftermath of political violence, with a particular focus on Guatemala, where she has worked for over 30 years.

Crosby is currently working on the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council-funded project “Remembering and Memorializing Violence: Transnational Feminist Dialogues,” which brings together feminist scholars, artists, activists and community practitioners from a wide range of contexts and disciplinary perspectives to explore the transnational dimensions of how we collectively remember and memorialize colonial, militarized and state violence. The project also provided Crosby’s postdoctoral Fellow, Ruth Murambadoro, with a space to house her research and become part of this digital community.

“Professor Crosby embodies Ubuntu principles of communitarianism, humility, mutual respect, hospitality and so much more, which have enabled me to integrate and chart a new pathway for my career in Canada,” noted Murambadoro in her nomination letter. “She remains a key player in my life and role model, who taught me fundamental lessons on collegiality, humanness and effective mentorship. I value the contributions that Prof. Crosby has made in my research, scholarly and personal development over the time we have worked together.”

In response to the award win, Crosby said, “It’s my pleasure, privilege and honour to work with postdoc Fellows.” Of her nominator, she said, “I look forward to my collaborations with her for many years to come.”

Amro Zayed

Amro Zayed
Amro Zayed

Zayed, a professor in the Department of Biology and York Research Chair in Genomics, is currently the inaugural director of York’s Centre for Bee Ecology, Evolution & Conservation, leading a research program on the genetics, genomics and behaviour of social insects, using the honey bee as a model organism. 

Zayed’s lab provides opportunities to conduct research and network with academics and industry partners worldwide. Since 2009, Zayed has supervised eight postdoctoral Fellows who have collectively produced a total of 28 peer-reviewed publications and 71 conference presentations. He aims to equip postdoctoral Fellows with the skills necessary to successfully navigate the increasingly competitive job market.

“His approach to leadership has inspired us to seek creative solutions in research and to collaborate with diverse groups of stakeholders,” stated Sydney Wizenberg and Sarah French in their letter of nomination. “To this end, Amro exemplifies all of the characteristics one would expect of an intellectual leader and role model. He provides a unilateral environment of support to his research group. He is personally invested in our success and well-being, going above and beyond to help with professional skill development. He is actively involved in our career development, prioritizing our long-term success over our short-term role in his group.”

Zayed was caught off-guard by the award. “I was really surprised by this,” he admitted. “When I started my career, I never appreciated the joy of having postdocs.”

The Postdoctoral Supervisor of the Year Award accepts nominations annually by no later than June 1 of each year. Nomination letters should provide evidence that the nominee meets the following criteria: is a role model for intellectual leadership and professionalism in research; fosters an environment of support for professional skill development; promotes a climate of respect and collegiality; and offers advocacy and guidance in long-term personal and professional developments.

For more information, visit gradstudies.yorku.ca/postdoctoral-fellows/supervisor-award.