York U’s Teaching Commons creates inaugural eLearning “Community of Practice” website

Community of Practice
Community of Practice

York University through its Teaching Commons has taken a leadership role in establishing a new online Community of Practice (CoP) website for educational developers and professionals specializing in eLearning. It is a provincial first.

The Steelcase WorkLife Center was the venue for the eLearning and eTeaching community of practice launch

The new Ontario eTeaching & eLearning CoP website connects eLearning professionals in the province’s colleges and universities to create a networking and professional development community where best practices, eLearning resources, perspectives, and experiences can be shared among members.

The initiative was led by Celia Popovic, director of the Teaching Commons at York University and with York U educational developers Lisa O’Neill, Jerusha Lederman (Postdoctoral visitor) and Lisa Endersby.

“The idea of creating a website came from the recognition that it would be extremely beneficial to have eLearning professionals communicate and exchange ideas freely in an easily accessible online setting. With this in mind and with funding from eCampus Ontario, the website was structured to be a series of online forums and a collection of both curated and member-suggested resources,” said Popovic.

Participants gathered to discuss various aspects of the online community. Discussion points were then posted on the  community of practice website.

The Ontario eTeaching & eLearning CoP website offers discussion areas, a resource and links section, news and current events, and an area for prescheduled community debates.

“Although York University has spearheaded this initiative, this is a truly community-based project and each year, a different member institution will assume the hosting of the website and the moderating duties. Going forward, there is also the potential for in-person events,” said Popovic.

The website debuted Jan. 26 at a special event at the Steelcase WorkLife Center in downtown Toronto. Thirty educational developers from 13 higher educational institutions in the province attended the launch.

“York University recognizes that eLearning is an important pedagogic tool and we were pleased to champion this initiative to promote innovation in eLearning and reach out to the Higher Education community in Ontario,” said Popovic.

Activities during the launch included presentations on the aims, goals and workings of the CoP. Following welcome remarks by Popovic, the educational developers participated in a collective brainstorming activity focused on identifying emerging issues in eLearning. Thirteen topics were identified as key areas of interest for future online discussions.

The topics are:

• Student Accommodations & Accessibility issues, including Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) compliance;
• Sustainability;
• Alternatives to video lectures for content delivery;
• How does each college or university’s process work for developing eLearning;
• eLearning, what is and is not working (evidence-based), and how to obtain evidence’
• Faculty engagement;
• Best practices – instructional design and standard of practice;
• Preparing and supporting students for eLearning;
• Preparing and supporting instructors for eLearning;
• Tool sharing and experiences, and examples;
• Open education resources (OERs) and Open Education;
• Use of technology – What is most suitable for faculty, for students;
• Using micro awards and gaming concepts.

The educational developers selected open educational resources and faculty engagement as the two priority topics for discussion at the launch event. Members were split into two groups and led by facilitators, they engaged in a discussion. Notes on the discussions were posted on the website for review and use by the public.

Participants also worked in small groups to develop a code of conduct for the community of practice. Suggestions were incorporated and the code collaboratively built and posted in real time on the website by the discussion facilitators. The code of conduct document has since been updated so that it is now a formal, final version.

Teaching Commons Director Celia Popovic records discussion points on a whiteboard. The discussion points were recorded and immediately posted on the website.

“The event proved to be a success especially given the completion of activities with the identification of key topics and the creation of a formal CoP code of conduct,” said Popovic. “Additionally, the launch brought together a diverse group of eLearning professionals who are now connected and can continue their work as a community to shape the future of eLearning in Ontario.

“York University is committed to continuing to be the innovative champion of eLearning and we look forward to seeing the community grow and flourish,” she added. “Community members are at liberty to determine their preferred level of engagement. So do come and join us whether you would like to voice your opinions or be a lurker, all are welcome!”

Interested parties are welcome to join the CoP by going to the Ontario eTeaching & eLearning CoP website and completing the registration form. Membership in the community is free.

By Jerusha Lederman, postdoctoral visitor with the Teaching Commons at York University

York U, IBM Canada partner to enhance emergency management degree programs


Students enrolled in York’s emergency management programs will have access to world-leading technology and tools, thanks to a new partnership between York University and IBM Canada.

IBM Canada is awarding a $1.8-million in-kind gift to accelerate the Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid Response Simulation (ADERSIM), a cloud-enabled platform housed at York University that enhances disaster and emergency planning through leading-edge modeling and simulation technology.

Scenes from the 2013 earthquake in the PhilippinesAs the first academic-industry partnership in Canada to address disaster and emergency management at scale, ADERSIM uses IBM’s deep analytics capabilities coupled with York’s big data and interdisciplinary research expertise to meet Canada’s current and future demands in emergency management and public safety.

York University is the first in Canada to offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in emergency management, equipping students with the tools to manage, and in some cases mitigate, emergencies such as flooding, hurricanes, global warming and terrorism.

“York University and IBM share a common goal to advance state-of-the-art disaster management systems,” said Mamdouh Shoukri, president and vice-chancellor of York University. “This gift marks the beginning of an extraordinary collaboration to build an emergency management ecosystem of startups, government agencies, emergency responders and community organizations working to develop greater, more accurate solutions in disaster and emergency preparedness and mitigation.”

IBM’s support includes a $1.4-million contribution in cloud credits to support ADERSIM’s research team and community partners. The credits provide crucial access to the latest in cloud technologies to accelerate the development of applications that support simulating disaster risk and planning operations. The gift also includes a $400,000 discount on the IBM Cognitive Cities capabilities that form the building blocks of ADERSIM.

“IBM has a long history of supporting innovation in Canada, especially around research and development,” said Pat Horgan, vice-president, manufacturing, development and operations, IBM Canada. “Today’s announcement with York University is a direct result of this kind of innovation. ADERSIM is a big step towards drastically improving disaster and emergency planning in a way that could impact the safety of all Canadians. This is a significant initiative, and we are proud to be part of it.”

IBM’s gift is part of a $5-million multi-partner investment. Other funding partners include: the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC); the Ontario Research Fund (ORF); and, York University. The innovative partnership aims to expand and grow ADERSIM’s disaster and emergency management portfolio.

The ADERSIM program will equip approximately 80 trainees with strong theoretical and professional skills in information searching, data mining and knowledge management.

Last year, York University launched “Impact: The Campaign for York University”, a $500-million fundraising and alumni engagement initiative. The campaign aims to mobilize new ways of thinking, including investing in the bright minds that drive innovation, as well as to build stronger communities, which will enrich learning and research throughout York’s local and global networks. ADERSIM directly supports these priorities.

LaunchYU rebrands and launches new programs


LaunchYU has rebranded its entrepreneurship programming and added two new programs to complement the existing summer accelerator program, all designed to help York students and budding entrepreneurs on the journey to starting their own ventures.

IgniteUP is an initial touch point for students who have an entrepreneurial idea and don’t know where to begin, or have a venture and want advice on how to move it forward. IgniteUP gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to engage with LaunchYU mentors and industry professionals. Students can book an appointment through the LaunchYU website to sit down to discuss their opportunity and receive valuable feedback for improvement.

RevUP is a pre-accelerator workshop series designed to help entrepreneurs test their new venture idea and take that idea from concept to reality. This five-event workshop series begins with a Design Thinking and Ideation session on March 1 and 2 from 5 to 8pm, run by the Head of Design and Innovation at IBM, Eliane Tozman. Workshops run every Thursday in Kaneff Tower, 519, at York University until March 30. Other sessions include: Business Model Canvas; Customer Development; Implementation and Prototyping; and Power Pitching. Sessions are led by industry thought leaders who will guide participants through the key topics they need to consider when starting their own ventures.

AccelerateUP is the rebranded LaunchYU summer accelerator program. Now entering it’s third year, AcclerateUP has supported 40 high potential ventures to date. It is an intensive, four-month accelerator program that begins in early May and runs through late August. AccelerateUP is run by LaunchYU in partnership with ventureLAB and YEDInstitute, and is designed to support entrepreneurs as they build, launch and scale their ventures.

AccelerateUP entrepreneurs are provided with lectures, workshops, one-on-one mentorship, and other services that help early-stage ventures as they launch and grow their businesses. The program also provides participating ventures an opportunity to receive a maximum of $8,000 in cash awards, and access to resources such as collaborative working space, legal advice and services, access to maker spaces, investor meet-ups, industry connections, and more.

At the end of the program, ventures participate at the AccelerateUP Graduation and Demo Day, where they pitch to an audience consisting of investors, corporate executives, successful entrepreneurs and government officials.

LaunchYU is excited to offer these programs to entrepreneurs across campus and in the community. Over the past two years, LaunchYU has engaged with students from every faculty across campus in for-profit, non-profit or social enterprises in areas including, but not limited to, arts, business, engineering, or science. LaunchYU wants to engage with students and support their ideas and ventures.

For more information, visit www.launchyu.ca or email launchyu@yorku.ca.

Open Your Mind: An interview with MES student Jessica Lukawiecki

Jessica Lukawiecki
Jessica Lukawiecki

Appearing at regular intervals in YFile, Open Your Mind is a series of articles offering insight into the different ways York University professors, researchers and graduate students champion fresh ways of thinking in their research and teaching practice. Their approach, grounded in a desire to seek the unexpected, is charting a new course for future generations.

Today, the spotlight is on Jessica Lukawiecki, a second-year Master in Environmental Studies (MES) student in the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Lukawiecki has focused her graduate studies on leading a research project at the David Suzuki Foundation – in collaboration with the Council of Canadians and with advisors including the Assembly of First Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – to publish a report on First Nations drinking water in Ontario documenting the progress made on the federal government’s commitment to ending drinking water advisories across the country within five years.

Q. Please describe your field of current research.

A. I have just completed a research project titled Glass Half Empty with the David Suzuki Foundation and the Council of Canadians that investigates the state of First Nations drinking water in Ontario. The report measures some of the progress that has been made in lifting First Nations Drinking Water Advisories (DWAs) in Ontario, following the Liberal government commitment to end all First Nations DWAs across Canada within five years.

Q. What inspired you to pursue this line of research? Who or what sparked your interest in this line of inquiry?

A. I owe a lot of my early interest in environmentalism to my parents, and to a couple of teachers I had early on. In junior school, I started a club called “Animals in Nature.” We had five members and spent our recess picking up litter on school grounds and having bake sales to raise money for elephants in Africa. A lot of my friends still laugh at me for being quite a nerd in those days, but I’m proud of the work we did as very young activists.

I became involved with the David Suzuki Foundation as a result of one of my professors at York, Faisal Moola, who is also the Ontario director for the organization. When the course was done, Faisal invited me to volunteer with the organization, which later turned into a six-month contract for the completion of a report on First Nations Drinking Water in Ontario. I’ve gained incredibly valuable mentors at the David Suzuki Foundation since getting involved, including Rachel Plotkin and Alaya Boisvert. Their hard work and passion for tackling complex environmental issues continue to inspire me.

Q. How would you describe the significance of your research in lay terms?

A. Many First Nations continue to experience chronic water issues, even when their neighboring municipalities enjoy access to clean, safe and reliable drinking water. In Ontario alone, there were 81 DWAs in place in 44 First Nations as of November 2016. The province claims the highest number of First Nation DWAs in the country.

The current Liberal government made a campaign promise to resolve all long-term First Nations Drinking Water Advisories (DWAs) within five years, and at the David Suzuki Foundation, we wanted to monitor what progress has been made on this issue. Data were compiled from interviews, meetings, conferences, reports and media releases in order to assess some of the progress and challenges that First Nations experience in attaining clean and safe drinking water. I used this data to assess the likelihood of whether nine First Nations across Ontario with long-term DWAs would have their advisory lifted within the committed time frame. First Nations were selected using Health Canada’s list of DWAs and by reaching out to communities through their Tribal Councils, or by building on existing relationships.

Based on our assessment, only three First Nations that we assessed are on track or have had their DWA lifted (in ‘Communities Surveyed in Ontario’ diagram, this is depicted as ‘glass full’); in three First Nations, efforts are underway but there is continued uncertainty about whether the DWA will be lifted within the five-year commitment (glass half empty); and for three First Nations, unless current processes and procedures are reformed, it is unlikely the DWA will be lifted within the committed time frame (glass empty).

Based on our research, we also came up with a number of recommendations for addressing some of the major barriers to progress when it comes to resolving First Nations DWAs. These include working with First Nations to streamline and simplify the process for capital investments in water infrastructure; supporting First Nations-led approaches to drinking water that recognize the leadership of First Nations; and increasing federal transparency and reporting of budget spending and progress toward ending long-term DWAs in First Nations (among others – see full report for more).

Q. How are you approaching this field in a different, unexpected or unusual way?

A. The report is a unique collaboration with input from environmental and human rights organizations, First Nations government, the provincial government, the private sector and the media. It brings together many voices on the drinking water issue in Ontario, to paint a picture of the major challenges and barriers to progress that both First Nations and the government experience in the provision of clean, safe drinking water.

Q. How does your approach to the subject benefit the field?

A. The report provides advocacy on the issue of First Nations drinking water and strives to hold the federal government accountable to their promise of lifting all long-term DWAs on First Nations within five years. It provided an opportunity for many First Nation voices to be heard, both through the report itself and also through the press conference that was held in Ottawa upon release of the report. A number of First Nation chiefs and individuals travelled to Ottawa for the press conference to participate in a water ceremony on the Hill and to speak at the press conference, which was attended by a number of media outlets.

I hope that the 12 recommendations we have made will also provide some support to the work that is currently taking place to resolve long-term DWAs in First Nations across Canada.

The report received widespread media attention from the CBC, CTV, Global and the Globe and Mail, among others.

Q. What findings have surprised and excited you? (I.e. tell us about the most interesting finding, person and/or place you encountered while pursuing this line of inquiry.)

A. It was very exciting to learn how much success First Nations-led approaches are having in addressing individual drinking water issues in Ontario. For instance, the Safe Water Project is an Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)-funded but First Nations-led approach to resolving drinking water issues for First Nations which functions by investing in people first. This means investing in the operations, management and training side of drinking water issues. The logic behind the project is that it is not enough to simply invest in infrastructure for First Nations, or to use a one size fits all approach. Projects need to be tailored to individual First Nations, and there must be people in place who know how to maintain water infrastructure in a way that is sustainable.

Since the project started, three of the four chronic DWAs in communities involved in the project have been lifted. The project was recently approved by INAC for expansion to a further 14 First Nations. We were thrilled to have representatives of the project join us in Ottawa in this month for the release of the report.

One of the highlights of the entire project was standing on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in -15 C weather my coworkers and two First Nations women as we participated in a water ceremony. We held a press conference later that day for the release of the report, which was attended by a number of First Nations chiefs and individuals. Their stories brought the research to life, as they shared their own personal experiences with unsafe drinking water to the press.

Q. Every researcher encounters roadblocks and challenges during the process of inquiry, can you highlight some of those challenges and how you overcame them?

A. I think the hardest part of the research journey was getting started. As a new researcher, you really don’t feel like you have the authority to be interviewing First Nations, government officials and many other people who are already established in their field. It can be daunting making those first calls or going to those first meetings. My philosophy has become to take the jump and trust that your experiences so far will enable you to stand on your own two feet.

Q. How has this research opened your mind to new possibilities or new directions?

A. Working on this paper has made me realize how much I enjoy project-based work in the environmental field. I hope to continue to develop my skills, especially as a quantitative researcher, so that I can eventually work in environmental policy and economics.

Jessica Lukawiecki on Parliament Hill on Feb. 9 for the press release of the report with the rest of the team from the David Suzuki Foundation

Q. Are there interdisciplinary aspects to your research? If so, what are they?

A. Absolutely. As I have heard repeated many times, water is life – there is no part of life that is not touched by water. It is the most simple of truths. Every person needs clean water in order to live healthy, safe and fulfilling lives.

Q. Did you ever consider other fields of research?

A. Definitely. With environmental research there is so much going on, it’s hard not to get pulled in too many different directions. Right now my focus is on water, but I’m also interested in environmental toxicity, climate change and environmental protection in the Arctic.

Q. Are you involved with teaching any courses this year? If so, what are they? Do you bring your research experience into your teaching practice?

A. No – have you heard of anyone hiring???

Q. What advice would you give to students embarking on a research project for the first time?

A. As a new researcher, you feel like you’re not qualified to be doing the work that you’re doing – I’ve heard it referred to as the ‘imposter syndrome.’ My advice is to just pretend until you’re not pretending anymore. I’m not sure that I’ve hit that point yet, but I expect it’s coming soon.

Q. Why did you choose York to pursue your graduate studies?

A. York’s Master in Environmental Studies program allowed me the flexibility and freedoms to pursue my interests, wherever they took me. The program is truly interdisciplinary at its heart, and students are encouraged to seek out opportunities that might not be available at other schools – although admittedly, you have to be pretty committed and resilient to find these opportunities.

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.

A. I grew up in Toronto, and most of my family and best friends are still here. I love the city, but I’m always eager to get outside – whether it’s going for a bike ride, getting away for the weekend or going on a trip. Active living and healthy eating are incredibly important to me. I believe that experiences are more important than things. I have strong environmental values and I believe that the natural world is intrinsically valuable in a way that cannot be quantified. We cannot fathom what we are losing when we degrade our natural spaces and wipe entire species from the globe. We cannot understand the future we are committing to when we allow problems like climate change to run rampant. I have heard that the environmental field is a losing battle, but it’s one that I am willing to fight regardless because at the end of the day I want to know that I was part of the resistance. I want to be able to say that I tried.

Q. How long have you been a researcher?

A. Just under a year now.

Q. What books, recordings or films have influenced your life?

A. Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything; Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake; Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.

Q. What are you reading and/or watching right now?

A. Chelsea Handler’s documentary series on Netflix, Chelsea.

Q. What do you do for fun?

A. I love to read and write, enjoy spending time with family and friends, and am hoping to do more outdoor activities when it warms up, like hiking, sailing and camping.

Grad students invited to Muscle Health Research Centre Career Day

Muscle Health Research Day
Participants at the 5th Muscle Health Research Day

York University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Science, Faculty of Health, presents its second Career Day for graduate students, hosted by the Muscle Health Research Centre on Feb. 24.

The event will feature eight guest speakers from industry, academia and a number of other fields who have gone through graduate school in a science- or biology-related field and have moved on to a diverse range of careers.

Guest speakers will deliver short talks describing their academic and career path, their current position, along with their roles/responsibilities, and skills/tips that a graduate students looking to enter the workforce may find valuable.

The event is an important educational resource for graduate students who are interested in exploring career options outside the traditional academia path, or hearing first-hand accounts and experiences from former biology and science graduate students who have pursued careers related and unrelated to academia.

Invited to speak at the event are: Mark Dekker, senior scientist, Pepsi Co; Stuart Menzies, account manager, CTC Communications; Kristy Menzies, project manager, McKesson Specialty; Alex Hutchinson, translational writer, Runners World/Freelance; Ayesha Saleem, professor, Humber College; Erin Connelly, MSL, Janssen Inc.; Chris Rand, product consultant, Aurora Scientific; and, Chris Gerling, marketing and analytics manager, Bioventus Global.

“We believe this event is an excellent opportunity to expose graduate students to a variety of possible career avenues. We have invited a diverse set of speakers from several unique fields, and we hope graduates students take full advantage of this great event,” said MHRC Student Committee Chair Meghan Hughes.

Career Day runs from 9am to 1pm in the Life Science Building, 101 and 103. The cost is $10 for all attendees, and payment is made on site and in cash only the day of the event. The fee includes morning refreshments and a catered lunch.

For more information visit mhrc.info.yorku.ca/mhrc-career-day.

The first Career Day ran in 2014.

Osgoode Hall Law School charts a bold course for next three years

Osgoode Hall Law School main foyer hallway
Osgoode Hall Law School main foyer hallway

York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School is embarking on a bold three-year strategic plan that will not only chart its academic direction, but also help to define the law school’s values at a time of rapid and significant change in legal education and the legal profession.

Access Osgoode Strategic Plan 2017-2020 builds on York’s 2015-2020 University Academic Plan and renews the law school’s commitment to five key areas of focus:

  • Accessibility – seen through many lenses including student financial support, knowledge mobilization, and diversity and inclusion.
  • Community Engagement – contributing to and strengthening the communities in which we live and work.
  • Experiential Education – the exploration of law in action and reflective learning.
  • Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples – in all of its forms ranging from curriculum development to research strategies and community life.
  • Research Intensification – pushing the bounds of legal knowledge and shaping the public debate.

The Access Osgoode Plan, which was unanimously approved in principle by Osgoode’s Faculty Council on Jan. 9, is the culmination of a year-long planning process that involved a number of consultation sessions with students, staff, faculty and alumni.

The themes of community engagement, experiential education and research intensification had figured prominently in the law school’s previous strategic plan (Experience Osgoode Strategic Plan 2011-2016), but there was a strong consensus within the Osgoode community that accessibility and reconciliation should also be cross-cutting goals over the next three years.

“The high cost of tuition is a serious barrier to access to legal education,” said Osgoode Dean Lorne Sossin. “In recent years, Osgoode has engaged in a range of ambitious accessibility initiatives to ensure that the pool of applicants remains diverse and inclusive. We intend to expand those initiatives and develop new approaches to increase not only financial accessibility to law school, but also accessibility in curriculum design and delivery, and accessibility for law students with disabilities.”

Osgoode continues to pursue accessibility to legal education in ways that are student-centred. By way of example, Sossin points to the law school’s recent decision to move ahead with a Flex-Time initiative to make the law school more accessible to students who face barriers that make participation in the full- time Juris Doctor program difficult or impossible, such as work or care responsibilities, financial restrictions or health concerns.

In addition, Osgoode is building on its past initiatives to strengthen and deepen ties with Indigenous communities and ensure that curricular reform and course development emphasizes thoughtful and deep engagement with Indigenous legal traditions and Indigenous justice issues.

“We are establishing a new Reconciliation Fund in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action for Law Schools with a goal of deepening Indigenization at Osgoode,” said Sossin. This new Reconciliation Fund will provide resources for Osgoode’s “Anishinaabe Law Camp” as well as initiatives to build relationships with Indigenous communities, expand scholarship and partnerships in Indigenous law, and ensure all Osgoode students are exposed to the culture, law and history of Indigenous peoples.

Some goals set out in the plan already are coming to fruition. New experiential programs have been developed in Feminist Legal Advocacy and in Securities and Investor Protection, which will bring the Osgoode’s total number of experiential education programs to 18 (the most of any law school in Canada); a Journalist in Residence program has been launched (following on the heels of the successful Artist in Residence program that began in 2013); and new certificates for students in areas of Tech Transformation and Developing Client & Community Relationships have been added to Osgoode’s Learning & Leading Series.

In conjunction with the launch of the Access Osgoode Plan, the law school is unveiling a new communications initiative – “Make History with Us.”  A reference to Osgoode’s rich history and reputation for leading new ideas in legal education, this initiative is designed to enhance awareness of the many strengths of Osgoode’s Juris Doctor, Graduate and Professional Development programs.

To read Sossin’s commentary on the Access Osgoode Plan, visit his blog.

New Presidential Search Committee video offers insight into the search for York’s next president

In a new video released Tuesday, Feb. 21 to the York University community Rick Waugh, chair of the Presidential Search Committee and chair of the Board of Governors, joins Presidential Search Committee members to discuss the values of York University’s culture that are guiding the search for the next president.

York undergraduate student Dalubuhle Ndlovu, who is enrolled in Human Rights and Equity Studies, and Faculty of Education Associate Professor Roopa Trilokekar, join in the discussion.

In December 2015, York University embarked on an extensive and comprehensive search for the next president. The search is being conducted by a 14-member committee comprised of representatives from the University Senate and the Board of Governors and is guided by the Principles to Govern Presidential Search Committees, which was established in 2005 by these two governance bodies.

The search process included broad consultations across the University community about York’s strategic needs and the specific attributes the next president should possess in order to meet those needs.

Researchers develop math models to address antibiotic resistance in healthcare facilities

Antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria
Antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria

Scientists at York University and a national team of collaborators have developed new mathematical models that will help researchers, doctors and policymakers address the challenging public health issue of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. The research, co-led by postdoctoral fellows Josie Hughes and Xi Huo, was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Jianhong Wu

Drug-resistant bacteria, commonly called superbugs, are a really big issue in healthcare facilities because they can spread easily and cause an outbreak,” says a co-author Jianhong Wu, Canada Research Chair and University Distinguished Research Professor at the Faculty of Science at York University. “As you might imagine, it’s hard to contain these infections when treatments are ineffective. And experts worry that it’s only a matter of time before we run out of effective options to treat most infections.”

The team developed math models that focus on a strategy called “antimicrobial de-escalation,” which is widely used in hospitals but poorly understood in terms of its effects.

When a patient in a hospital has an unknown bacterial infection, her doctor orders lab tests to find out what the infection is and in the meantime gives her a broad-spectrum antibiotic that acts against a wide range of bacteria. When the lab results come back a few days later, the doctor may switch the treatment to a narrow-spectrum antibiotic that targets the culprit bacteria. This alteration of treatment is referred to as antimicrobial de-escalation.

The goal of de-escalation is to reduce the use of precious broad-spectrum antibiotics, so that bacteria are less likely to develop resistance to these drugs. The effects of it can be complex, however. For instance, de-escalation preserves broad-spectrum antibiotic therapies and reduces costs, but it might also increase the emergence of multi-drug resistance bacteria strains and leave patients vulnerable to superinfections in some contexts.

“It can be a tradeoff in some situations, and practitioners need the proper tools to make evidence-based decisions,” explains Wu.

To address this gap, this national team developed math models that quantify and estimate the benefits and unintended consequences of antimicrobial de-escalation. The models address de-escalation for the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the setting of an intensive care unit—but they could be adapted for other microbes, drugs and facilities.

The research was part of a larger national and interdisciplinary research project funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canda to develop an Antimicrobial Resistance Diversity Index that can guide research and decision-making related to drug resistance.

Governments partner with York U to invest $113 million in research and learning

A delegation of University officials and ministers from federal and provincial government unveil a photograph at the Strategic Investment Fund announcement on Feb. 17 at the Keele campus
A delegation of University officials and ministers from federal and provincial government unveil a photograph at the Strategic Investment Fund announcement on Feb. 17 at the Keele campus

An infusion of $113 million from the Governments of Canada and Ontario and York University will modernize labs in the Faculties of Science and Health, create a new building for the Schulich School of Business, and boost energy-efficient cooling and power for 85 buildings on York’s Keele Campus. The investment will create exciting opportunities for the next generation of researchers and students who inspire progress at home and around the globe.

The federal government will provide $40.8 million to York through its Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, the Hon. Judy Sgro, MP Humber River-Black Creek, announced at York University Feb. 17. The provincial government, represented by the Hon. Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation and MPP Vaughan, will provide $6.6 million and York will invest more than $65 million, for a total of approximately $113 million.

$113M in infrastructure funding was announced today at York U for science and health labs, a new Schulich School of Business building and sustainability. From left, Faculty of Science Dean Ray Jayawardhana, Dean of the Faculty of Health Paul McDonald, Vice-President Academic & Provost Rhonda Lenton, Minister of Transportation and MPP Vaughan Steven DelDuca, MP Humber River-Black Creek Judy Sgro, York U President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri and York U Vice-President Research & Innovation Robert Hache
Above: $113M in infrastructure funding was announced Feb. 17 at York U for science and health labs, a new Schulich School of Business building and sustainability. From left, Faculty of Science Dean Ray Jayawardhana, Dean of the Faculty of Health Paul McDonald, Vice-President Academic & Provost Rhonda Lenton, Minister of Transportation and MPP Vaughan Steven Del Duca, MP Humber River-Black Creek Judy Sgro, York U President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri and York U Vice-President Research & Innovation Robert Hache.

“We are grateful to the federal and provincial governments for this investment in York’s research and learning infrastructure. This funding will ensure that our researchers, faculty and students have the resources they need to conduct cutting-edge research that will position Canada as a leader in science, health and business innovation. This important renewal will also help to make our operations more efficient and sustainable in the long-term,” said York University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri.

The improvements will be made over the next two years.

“The Government of Canada’s support for leading-edge facilities at York University will introduce state-of-the-art technology, create new space to expand industry-focused research programs and centres of excellence, and support the modernization of existing laboratory space as well as two new laboratory spaces at York University’s Glendon Campus,” said Robert Haché, vice-president research & innovation.

The funding will be used to:

  • convert the 48-year-old Farquharson Life Sciences building into a modern academic and research building using sustainable practices, renovate labs in three other buildings on the Keele campus, and create biology labs at Glendon, York’s bilingual campus;
  • build an environmentally-sustainable 67,000-square-foot building linked to the existing Schulich School of Business, to support research, global programs and Centres of Excellence; and
  • upgrade equipment in the Central Utilities Building to provide more energy-efficient and reliable heat, cooling and power to York’s 85 buildings.

The investment in York is part of the federal government’s $2-billion fund to modernize research and commercialization facilities at Canadian universities, colleges and polytechnics, improve the environmental sustainability of those facilities and promote economic activity across Canada. These York University projects met the extensive funding criteria of the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund that include being shovel-ready for completion by April 30, 2018; promoting innovation and long-term economic growth through improved or expanded research, innovation or commercialization spaces; and/or improving the environmental sustainability of research and innovation-related infrastructure.

Above: $113 million in infrastructure and sustainability funding announced Feb. 17 at York University. From left, Faculty of Science Dean Ray Jayawardhana, Dean of the Faculty of Health Paul McDonald, Vice-President Academic and Provost Rhonda Lenton, Minister of Transportation and MPP Vaughan Steven Del Duca, MP Humber River-Black Creek Judy Sgro, York U President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, York U Vice-President Research and Innovation Robert Haché, Sherif Saleb, project manager at NXL Architects and David Agro, project architect.

“Our government has made the support of science the cornerstone of policy development and roll-out and this announcement is part of that approach. This strategy, coupled with the fact that York has long been on the forefront of research and cutting-edge development, means York’s role is one that must expand in ways that assures the University has the tools needed to do the job effectively. This funding is an important step on that path and I am pleased to be here to lend my support to York University and to the concept of policy rooted in science and data,” said Sgro.

Modernization of research and learning facilities will create exciting opportunities for students and researchers at York for many years to come.

“Our government is proud to support this important project, which will give York University students access to renewed and upgraded facilities that provide space for three projects; the Major Science Building Renewal project, the Central Utilities and CO-Generation Upgrade project and the Schulich School of Business Expansion. We know that providing access to high-quality education and training facilities is critical to building the highly-skilled workforce we need to support good jobs and economic growth for today and tomorrow, and this investment will help us to do exactly that,” said Del Duca.

Notice to the York Community: Aramark food service employees on strike

Aramark is contracted by York University to provide food service at 12 locations on the Keele campus. Unite Here Local 75, the union representing employees of Aramark at these locations, will commence a strike action Thursday, Feb. 16, which will impact these locations.

York University respects the collective bargaining process which is currently underway between Aramark and Unite Here. As York is not part of these private and confidential negotiations, the University is not involved in the bargaining process.

Potential Impact

University Operations
The University will continue to be open with all classes and other campus activities scheduled as usual. However, you may encounter picketing at campus entrances, so please allow additional commuting time.  If you are approaching a picket line, please treat those picketing with respect and think about safety at all times.

If you experience problems crossing a picket line, please contact Security Services at 416-736-5333.

In addition, this strike action by Aramark employees could impact public transit providers (TTC, GO, YRT/VIVA and ZUM) bus schedules and regular bus stops. Currently, all transit providers intend to maintain regular service to the Keele campus.

The University will communicate any changes in service as quickly as possible to the community via email and social media.

More detailed transit information can be found here.

Food Services
To see which food service outlets will be open, follow the link below.

More food service information and FAQs can be found here.

Updates will be posted here as necessary and will also be posted on York’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts and campus LCD screens.