Prof’s discovery could advance future of thermoelectric devices

Engineer using tablet outside of energy generator plant

Simone Pisana, an associate professor in the Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Department at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, recently made a fascinating, unexpected discovery concerning two unique layered crystals that could have a significant impact on the development of thermoelectric devices.

Simone Pisana
Simone Pisana

After examining thermal properties of two types of crystals – named rhenium disulfide and rhenium diselenide – with a special approach, Pisana and his graduate student Sina Tahbaz found that both materials exhibit an extremely valuable property known as thermal conductivity anisotropy.

Materials demonstrating this behaviour conduct heat differently depending on the direction of flow. For example, when heat flows across one direction of the material surface, it can exhibit high thermal conductivity, but when heat flows in another direction it can demonstrate low thermal conductivity.

Thermal conductivity anisotropy is a highly sought-after quality for many material applications, specifically the development of thermoelectric devices, like thermoelectric generators, that can recover waste heat and turn it into usable electric power. These generators are used in various niche applications, including space missions like the Mars Curiosity and Perseverance rovers.

By dissipating heat in one direction and blocking heat in another, materials exhibiting thermal conductivity anisotropy can also be used to improve the cooling efficiency of electronic components like sensors and lasers.

“To improve thermoelectric devices, it is beneficial to have a material that is both a good electrical conductor and bad thermal conductor,” says Pisana. “If we can figure out how to direct heat, we can help engineer materials that recover and reuse waste heat.”

Pisana’s groundbreaking discovery regarding rhenium disulfide and rhenium diselenide has the potential to advance the future of thermoelectric devices. However, before these materials can be put to good use, he wants to find the fundamental explanation behind his experimental results.

“This discovery is only the beginning of our work,” he says. “We don’t really have a good explanation for the behaviour of these materials yet.”

Much of the surprise behind the experimental results concerns the size of the anisotropy measured. In the case of rhenium diselenide, the thermal conductivity was found to vary by a factor of four within the crystal’s layers – this level of anisotropy has never been observed before.

“This discovery has really made us wonder: why are these materials exhibiting this behaviour; are there other materials that act like this; and how do we explain this?”

Now, the professor and his graduate students are preparing for complex research ahead, working backwards from their experimental findings to establish an accurate scientific theory.

“Heat transport is very difficult to accurately model down to atomic dimensions, so coming up with a theory behind the behaviour of these materials won’t be easy,” he says. “We are performing some computations with the help of Digital Research Alliance Canada to support our work. Even with advanced supercomputers it can take hours of computing for a small set of calculations. This project is going to require us to invest a lot of time and labour.”

This work is presented in the paper “Extreme in-plane thermal conductivity anisotropy in Rhenium-based dichalcogenides,” published in the Journal of Physics Materials as part of a special emerging leaders initiative. Being classified among other leading researchers has allowed Pisana’s work to gain increased recognition among broad scientific communities.

Learn more about this research on Pisana’s Heat Transport in Electronic Devices Lab web page.

Schulich launches new diploma for metals, minerals industry

Workers in a Singaporean shipyard disembark a gas vessel during a planned fire drill

York University’s Schulich School of Business has announced the launch of a new Global Metals and Minerals Management (GMM) Diploma, designed to address the needs of the entire metals and minerals value chain by developing leaders who will navigate the transition to a global low-carbon economy through responsible minerals development and use.

A leader in mining and minerals management, Schulich launched an MBA specialization in Global Mining Management in 2012 – one of the first of its kind. Now, it’s looking to continue to advance its educational opportunities for those in the sector.

“Schulich’s newest diploma will provide a world-class business education to current and future leaders in companies working within the mining and minerals industry,” says Detlev Zwick, dean of the Schulich School of Business. “The program will develop leaders who can implement responsible strategies that create wealth for all stakeholders throughout the entire value chain.”

Schulich’s new diploma program – which includes online classes, one-on-one coaching and two in-person residences held in different centres around the globe each year – will commence in June and be offered over a nine-month period.

Program benefits include in-person experiential learning through site tours and the opportunity to hear from a diverse range of industry insiders. The program can be completed as a standalone diploma or concurrently with Schulich’s master of business administration (MBA) degree.

Global Mining Management co-directors Claudia Mueller and Richard Ross.
Global Mining Management co-directors Claudia Mueller (left) and Richard Ross (right).

The GMM Diploma is co-directed by Richard Ross, former Chair and CEO of Inmet Mining Corporation, who has over 40 years of experience in the metals and minerals industry; and Claudia Mueller, a PhD candidate and leadership consultant for the past decade to a broad range of metals and minerals companies.

“The Global Metals and Minerals Management Diploma provides an MBA level of education while enabling working professionals to continue full-time employment,” says Ross. “The classes are taught by industry professionals and stakeholders who have in-depth metals and mining knowledge and experience; and the classes will combine Schulich MBA students with diploma students, ensuring a rich and diverse mix of backgrounds and experience.”

As they launch this new program, Ross and Mueller are supported by dozens of individuals who have expertise, knowledge and experience in the metals and minerals industry. This includes the GMM Stakeholder Working Group, made up of Indigenous people and individuals who are well versed in all aspects of environmental, social, and governance regulations and practices in the metals and minerals industry.

For more information and to apply, visit the Global Metals and Minerals Management Diploma web page.

York conference inspires next generation of environmentalists

Change Your World conference 2024 team. Photo credit: Daniel Horawski

With news of environmental crises coming at us at an increasingly alarming rate, it can be easy to dwell on the doom and gloom of it all. York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) is doing its part to prevent that with its annual conference, Change Your World, which aims to empower Ontario’s youth to be the next generation of global changemakers.

Last week, some 500 Ontario high-school students and their teachers from more than 25 schools gathered in Vari Hall on York’s Keele Campus for the conference, where they spent the day learning how they can make a sustainable and equitable difference in the world – and its future – through a series of activities and workshops hosted in partnership with environmental and community partners from across the province.

Change Your World conference attendees gathered in Vari Hall. Photo by Daniel Horawski.

“At a time when there is a great deal of despair and ‘eco-anxiety’ concerning the state of the planet, it was inspiring to see young people coming together as active citizens to envision a different future,” said Philip Kelly, interim dean of EUC. “Connecting schools and environmentally-focused organizations for thoughtful discussions through events like Change Your World is an important role for the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change in our wider community.”

Pictured, left to right: keynote speaker Joanne Huy, EUC Interim Dean Philip Kelly, keynote speaker Alicia Richins. Photo by Daniel Horawski.

Students began the day by hearing from the conference’s keynote speakers, beginning with Interim Dean Kelly and ending with alumna Alicia Richins, director of strategy and governance for youth sustainability leadership organization Leading Change Canada and creator of multimedia platform the Climateverse.

Richins challenged the audience to consider their passions when choosing what change they should focus on and encouraged them to boldly share ideas, work collaboratively and never give up on their goals to make positive change.

“This annual event is all about showcasing ways youth can lead the change we need in our communities and around the world,” said Lily Piccone, strategic enrolment and communications officer at EUC and Change Your World conference co-ordinator. “Through inspiring keynote speakers, like our very own YU alumni Alicia and Joanne, and our community partners, the students can see local citizens that have turned their passion into a profession and are making positive change for people and the planet”

Toronto-based singer-songwriter and climate activist Brighid Fry performed at the 2024 Change Your World conference.

The students were then able to let their interests guide them by choosing two breakout sessions to participate in from a variety of offerings, including: a workshop on how to build resiliency in the face of anxiety about the future; a giant, immersive board game about power, peace and the planet; hands-on time with wind turbine models and solar panels; a tree identification walk; talks on green infrastructure, climate futurism, the importance of wetlands; and much more.

Following their lunch break, participants were treated to a special guest performance by Toronto-based singer-songwriter and climate activist Brighid Fry, recognized as one of the Top 25 under 25 by non-profit organization the Starfish Canada for her work on sustainability in the music industry. Students wrapped up their day of immersive learning with another workshop and enjoyed one final keynote address by community engagement professional and York alumna Joanne Huy, who shared her passion for transforming lives and communities through learning experiences and making local change in the York University and Jane-and-Finch communities.

Watch the video recap of the day’s events below:

For more information about the annual conference, visit the Change Your World website.

York hosts conference examining impact of AI on law

Update: New information after publication of this article indicates the March 13 conference will now be held online only.

Leading legal thinkers from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and beyond will gather to assess the seismic impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the law during a special conference on March 13 sponsored by the Osgoode-based Jack & Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime & Security.

All York community members are welcome to attend the hybrid event, titled Artificial Intelligence and the Law: New Challenges and Possibilities for Fundamental Human Rights and Security, which will take place both online and in person in 014 Helliwell Centre on York’s Keele Campus from noon to 6:15 p.m.

Trevor Farrow
Trevor Farrow

“I am delighted that this incredibly important discussion is being hosted at Osgoode Hall Law School,” said Osgoode Dean Trevor Farrow.

“Academics, lawyers, policymakers and the public are already heavily influenced by and reliant upon AI,” he added. “Osgoode very much sees itself at the centre of these discussions and innovations.”

By bringing together researchers with AI expertise across various fields of practice, conference speakers and attendees can engage with larger questions about law’s role in the regulation of emerging technologies, legal neutrality, ethics and professional responsibility, said Carys Craig, associate dean of research and institutional relations, who will speak on AI and copyright.

Carys Craig
Carys Craig

“I’m very excited about this conference,” she said. “Osgoode is known for its thought leadership and critical, interdisciplinary thinking, which is exactly what is needed as Canada grapples with the rapid acceleration of AI across almost every facet of society.”

The featured speakers will also include Professor Barnali Choudhury, director of the Nathanson Centre.

“Although AI offers numerous opportunities to society, it also poses risks, particularly in relation to human rights and security,” Choudhury noted. “Lawyers should be well versed in these risks to ensure that AI use aligns with legal standards.”

 Barnali Choudhury
Barnali Choudhury

The conference’s comprehensive examination of artificial intelligence will include the growing use of generative AI, which powers tools like ChatGPT, said Professor Valerio De Stefano, a co-organizer of the event and a panellist who will address today’s challenging issues around AI and work. 

“The law will have to react to a lot of the challenges that arise from artificial intelligence in order for society to thrive on the opportunities that AI offers,” he noted.

De Stefano said that almost no area of the law will be left untouched, including criminal, copyright, labour and tax law. Conference speakers will also dig into the implications of AI for legal ethics, practice and education.

Valerio De Stefano
Valerio De Stefano

“It’s extremely important that lawyers, both academics and practitioners, start discussing how to react to all these new things that are coming out of the AI landscape – and this is the opportunity to do that,” he added. “There’s a lot of people at Osgoode that do top-notch, groundbreaking research on law and technology.”

Other speakers will include Professor Jonathon Penney, who will examine whether AI safety standards are really safe, and Professor Allan Hutchinson, who will discuss AI and law’s multiplicity. Rounding out the list of Osgoode experts are Professor Sean Rehaag, PhD student Alexandra Scott and Osgoode PhD alumnus Jake Okechukwu Effoduh, now a law professor at Toronto Metropolitan University.

In the afternoon, De Stefano will chair a roundtable discussion on AI, due process and legal ethics. Panellists will include: Dean Farrow; Professor Patricia McMahon; Professor Richard Haigh; Glenn Stuart, the executive director of professional regulation for the Law Society of Ontario; and Professor Amy Salyzyn of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.

Registration is required. For more information about the event, email and copy

New working group builds on York’s leadership in social procurement

small houses businesses on blocks connected

York University is a leader in social procurement – a process that considers how buying goods and services can positively impact the social well-being of communities and assist in reducing poverty, promoting economic and social inclusion, and supporting local economic development and social enterprises. A new working group is seeking staff to help advance its efforts further.

For York University staff who aspire to become advocates for social procurement and whose roles involve a significant focus on purchasing, an exciting opportunity awaits. Strategic Procurement Services is actively seeking staff to join a social procurement working group with the goal of building social procurement awareness across York’s campuses. This group will, in part, help build tools and resources and identify future areas to build capacity to strengthen York’s leading social procurement program.

The group – and its future efforts – looks to build upon York positioning itself at the forefront of championing social procurement, taking a proactive approach to educate and engage its staff in the principles and practices of social procurement.

Among its recent endeavours is a pivotal new Anchor YU course, built from York’s Anchor York U Framework, designed to highlight the ways participants can champion social procurement within their respective roles alongside other ways to contribute to community wealth-building. The inaugural course held last fall received widespread attendance and positive feedback. Due to popular demand, a second offering is now available, and interested individuals are encouraged to register early to secure their spot through YU Learn.

York University’s success in social procurement has not been confined to its campuses; it has extended its impact across the province. The institution’s social procurement vendor portal, developed as an open-source tool, has become a catalyst for collaboration. Recently, York has signed memorandums of understanding with five university and college partners, designed to collectively build a robust social procurement ecosystem, leveraging York’s tools and expertise. This joint effort involves both institutional and community working groups, fostering a shared commitment to advancing social procurement practices.

As the University continues to lead the way in social procurement, these initiatives underscore its dedication to fostering a culture of sustainability and social responsibility. Through education, collaboration and community engagement, York is empowering its staff to become champions of social procurement, both within the University and across the broader community.

To express your interest in the social procurement working group, reach out to Brent Brodie at To learn more about social procurement at York and the University’s current impact, visit the Social Procurement web page.

Prof’s new book reveals communicative capacities of textile

Peruvian Andes weaving patterns

Long before the invention of the typewriter or the telephone, and even before humankind had a functioning alphabet, communication was taking place through textile craft. Ganaele Langlois, a professor in York University’s Department of Communication & Media Studies, has published a new book exploring just that – the often-ignored transformative communicative capacities of traditional textiles.

A Shipibo-Conibo (Peruvian Amazon) design being drawn on textile using natural pigments. Photo by Ganaele Langlois.
Ganaele Langlois
Ganaele Langlois

How Textile Communicates: from Codes to Cosmotechnics (Bloomsbury, 2024) is a thought-provoking contribution to the fields of both fashion and communication studies, challenging readers’ preconceptions and shining new light on the profound impact of textiles on human communication.

Textile, Langlois explains, has been used as a medium of communication since the prehistoric period. Up until the 19th century, civilizations throughout the world manipulated thread and fabric to communicate in a way that she believes would astound many of us now.

“We often think of the digital as something that is brand new and contemporary, but the fact is that digital modes of communication such as textile weaving, knitting, lace-making, and so on have existed and been used as means of communication and information storage long before the invention of the alphabet,” says Langlois.

In the book, she dissects textile’s unique capacity for communication through a range of global case studies, before examining the profound impact of colonialism on textile practice and the appropriation of the medium by capitalist systems.

“I was intrigued as to why in my own field, communication and media studies, textile has never received the same in-depth treatment as other media,” she says. “I explain the reasons for this in this book – mostly related to colonialism and capitalist appropriation – and explore how traditional textile practices continue their important and unique work of communication today.”

Student film exploring community-based sustainability screens at COP28

film camera

A documentary short created by York University PhD student Peyman Naeemi and supported by CIFAL York was competitively accepted to screen on Dec. 11 at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, as part of COP28’s Canada Pavilion events program.

York University PhD student Peyman Naeemi at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai
York University PhD student Peyman Naeemi at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai.

In collaboration with CIFAL York and EnviroMuslims, A Faithful Commitment to Sustainability examines an innovative, community-based sustainability program that a group of volunteers at the Jaffari Community Center (JCC) in Vaughan, Ont., undertook during the holy month of Ramadan while hosting and feeding more than 2,000 individuals every night. The film shows how the community was able to significantly minimize food and plastic waste and take major steps towards contributing to sustainability goals at the community level.

“Screening at COP28 is an exciting and exceptional opportunity for me and the film to further spread its message,” says Naeemi, who is currently at the conference in Dubai to take part in events and promote his film. “Considering the focus on the role of culture in climate change action at COP28, this documentary brings an example of such contribution, as faith is rooted in our culture.”

A second-year PhD student in York’s Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), Naeemi – who also puts his skills to use assisting CIFAL York’s multimedia unit – filmed, edited, directed and produced the film himself, with support from his PhD supervisory committee.

Using an interview style, Naeemi says the film seeks to highlight the following: the role of faith in initiating sustainable programs; the impact of family and community engagement in teaching sustainable practices; the role of Muslim women as sustainability leaders; and the advantages of using passionate youth to drive innovative sustainability practices.

“This documentary is very much in line with our focus area in developing learning materials around advancing UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” says Ali Asgary, director of CIFAL York, a professor of disaster and emergency management, and one of Naeemi’s PhD supervisors. “Screening this documentary at COP28 is very significant, as it highlights the importance and connections between the SDGs and the climate change.”

Adjunct Professor Mark Terry, another member of Naeemi’s supervisory committee, who helped produce the film through his Youth Climate Report project, calls A Faithful Commitment to Sustainability “a remarkable film.”

“I’m very proud of Peyman for making a film that Canada wanted to showcase at this year’s COP28 climate summit in Dubai,” he says.

At COP28, Naeemi looks forward to receiving expert feedback on the film and learning from peers about how to expand its reach on a global scale. Attending the conference, he hopes, will also enrich the theoretical part of his thesis, giving him exposure to the world’s leading experts on environmental action.

Regarding his future plans, Naeemi says A Faithful Commitment to Sustainability will screen at the JCC, at York and potentially other universities, and at film festivals like the Planet in Focus International Environmental Film Festival. It will then be available for public viewing online, on the CIFAL York and CIFAL Global websites. On the academic side, Naeemi plans to use the documentary as a case study in an upper-level undergraduate course, highlighting the role of digital media in environmental and social movements.

Join dialogues on degrowth at upcoming webinar series

Aerial Of Colorful Autumn Rivers & Lakes Though Mountains In Northern Ontario Canada

Beginning Nov. 22, York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) will present “Aim high, degrow: dialogues on degrowth,” a series of six lunchtime webinars addressing the many sides of degrowth, which argues we cannot maintain infinite economic growth on a finite planet.

The series will introduce key degrowth concepts and some of the major issues, debates and possibilities emerging from the field. It will be held virtually and all are welcome to attend.

Degrowth is a growing global movement of activists and researchers that prioritizes social and ecological well-being ahead of corporate profits, over-production and excess consumption. This requires radical redistribution, reduction in the material size of the global economy and a shift in common values towards care, solidarity and autonomy for people and their communities.

The webinar series aims to provide a space for deeper dialogues on degrowth, involving scholars and audiences from within and outside the degrowth world to explore key debates and how they connect to other issues like urbanization, decolonization, technology and the role of the state. Each discussion will run for an hour and is programmed around lunch hours. Guest panellists come from around the world and the moderators will be drawn from EUC.

The first event of the series, “Degrowth: a slogan, a movement, or a concept?,” takes place Wednesday, Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. It will provide an overview of the economic and ecological premises of degrowth and its main arguments. The speakers are York University Professor Emeritus Peter Victor and Elena Hofferberth, a researcher at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

The other webinars in the series are:

  • “Decolonization and feminism: does degrowth cut it?” on Thursday, Dec. 14 at 11:30 a.m.;
  • “Degrowth and the city: urbanization and planning for degrowth” on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 11 a.m.;
  • “Degrowth and systems: back to the caves or back to the future?” on Monday, Feb. 12 at 11:30 a.m.;
  • “Degrowth and the State” on Friday, March 22 at 12:30 p.m.; and
  • “Transitioning to a degrowth future: naïve or revolutionary?” on Thursday, April 18 at 12:30 p.m.

For more information and to register, visit the webinar series website.

Join discussion on nuclear energy’s role in a net-zero future

Late afternoon scene with view on riverbank with nuclear reactor Doel, Port of Antwerp, Belgium

As part of the Globe and Mail‘s East-West Energy Series of events, Professor Mark Winfield of York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) will present a talk titled “New Nuclear: Where does it fit in a net-zero nation?” on Friday, Oct. 20 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The event is free and open to all, and can be attended either virtually or in person at the Globe and Mail Centre at 351 King St. E. in Toronto.

Mark Winfield
Mark Winfield

As urgency around climate action continues to build, Canada and other nations are becoming more attuned to the role of nuclear energy in curbing emissions. The push is on to transition away from coal and fossil fuels, while at the same time meet rising demand for energy in the era of electrification. Provinces such as Ontario are investing in new nuclear development and interest is growing in small modular reactors for industry and to shift remote communities off diesel.

Join the Globe and Mail and Winfield for a discussion on nuclear energy in view of net-zero emissions goals, electrification and the shift away from fossil fuels.

Winfield is a professor and the co-chair of the EUC’s Sustainable Energy Initiative and co-ordinator of the Joint Master of Environmental Studies/Juris Doctor program offered in conjunction with Osgoode Hall Law School. He has published articles, book chapters and reports on a wide range of climate change, environment, and energy law and policy topics. Winfield has acted as an advisor to the environmental commissioner of Ontario and federal commissioner for environment and development. He is a member of the Conseil d’administration (board of directors) of Transitions energetique Quebec, a Crown corporation established in 2017 to implement a low-carbon energy transition strategy for Quebec.

For more information about the event series and to register, visit Event registration will close at 9 a.m. on Oct. 20.

Inaugural BEST Bridge to Startup projects innovate

diverse group of people collaborating

BEST Bridge to Startup (BB2S), the four-month Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (BEST) summer entrepreneurship experience that launched in the summer of 2023, has empowered students from York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering to build United Nations Sustainable Development Goal-friendly startups based around artificial intelligence (AI), accessibility, energy consumption and more.

BB2S was created to provide a crucial stepping stone for students transitioning from university to the professional world, imparting critical skills that go beyond the classroom, with undergraduate students able to turn their final-year capstone projects into ventures, or graduate students turning their research into a business.

Members of the BEST Bridge to Startup program
Members of the BEST Bridge to Startup program.

“Through our BB2S program, we aim to guide aspiring entrepreneurs on their path to self-discovery,” said Maedeh Sedaghat, BEST program manager. “The program offers a transformative experience that allows students to embrace a journey of curiosity and boundless learning, where success is the fruit of collective wisdom. The emotional rollercoaster that comes with this journey helps the students become more resilient, and they emerge with a personal and professionally rewarding entrepreneurial mindset that will enable them to make a positive impact in all their future endeavours.”

Aiming to bridge the gap between academic and practical application by offering participants hands-on practice instrumental to shaping future tech leaders, students were immersed in a professional setting where they could gain insights into the intricate workings of startup ecosystems, from ideation to market entry. Furthermore, as part of the program, each team worked with a Schulich School of Business master of business administration intern who helped the team develop business strategy, go-to-market strategies, product roadmaps and competitive reports.

The resulting inaugural projects are:

Created by computer science students Yasser Elsaid and Pegah Fallah, Chatbase is an AI chatbot builder that trains ChatGPT on an individual’s data and lets them add a chat widget to their website. 

Created by mechanical engineering students Mhd Youssef Demashkieh and Jad Zeitoun, Reefers is an energy recovery system that uses the exhaust gases to create electricity to power the refrigeration system of refrigerated truck trailers.

Created by computer science alum Abbas Qassim and computer science student Solomon Ukwosah, Handifuel automates the fuelling process by building a robotic arm that will eliminate the need of mobility-challenged individuals to manually complete the process.

Created by mechanical engineering alum Rizwan Bhatti, electrical engineering student Christopher Korfmann and software engineering student Mohammed Fulwala, PoweRanger is an autonomous, remote power line inspection robot that helps minimize production downtime and prevent unexpected power outages by quickly identifying faults, pinpointing their locations and understanding their causes.

Created by mechanical engineering students Mohammad Shamail, Muhammad Ali Toor and Eric Wong, MechTronX is a tech company that specializes in providing cost-effective, customized solutions that cater to the unique technical requirements of early-stage companies.

“BEST Bridge to Startup is a unique entrepreneurial opportunity that allows graduating students to experience the life of an entrepreneur by working exclusively on their startup for four months,” said Professor Andrew Maxwell, Bergeron Chair in Technology Entrepreneurship. “Our hope is that many of them turn their capstone projects into viable businesses supported by BESTLab.”