Annual event spotlights student choreographers, dancers

Figures dancing on stage in silhouette against sunset-coloured background

Dance Innovations 2023: Infinite Corners, running Nov. 22 to 24 at the McLean Performance Studio, will feature 25 new choreographic works by York University fourth-year bachelor of fine arts students addressing various social issues and personal experiences.

Performed by students in all years of York’s undergraduate programs in dance, this series engages with a range of human emotions. Each piece presents a unique concept, created in collaboration between the choreographer and the dancers. With the support of the faculty to turn their creativity into a full production, the student choreographers also collaborate with lighting designers, stage crew and technicians.

The underlying motif throughout the show is an exploration of the spectrum of feelings that humans experience through the successes and hardships in life. It considers themes like climate change, feminism, emotional development and gender theory.

“As we find ourselves in a time of recuperation following the pandemic, these creators are asking: what does it mean to move forward now?” says Infinite Corners Artistic Director Tracey Norman. “How are we coming alive in our collaborative work differently? If infinite corners lead to circles and cycles, the goal of this production is to enliven the ideas, processes and narratives that are important to this group of emerging artists.”

to move through dancers

Presented in two series – Continuous and Unbounded – the show also features a new work by Professor Susan Lee for the department’s third-year performance class.

One piece that will address difficult emotions is to move through by Gabriella Noonan, which examines the grieving process and how to grow throughout it. Dancers Megan Bagusoski, Isabella Castro, Autumn Ivan, Olivia Pereira and Colleen Wiebe will portray a depiction of grief after losing a loved one. As the dancers weave a narration of regret, nostalgia and hope, they demonstrate the possibilities of moving forward after a heartbreaking event. “With those still here around us we must find how we can move forward in a world that is missing a piece,” says Noonan.

perennial dancers

Another piece that will highlight resilience in the face of hardship is Jemima CummingsPerennial. Using the metaphor of perennial flowers, Cummings’ work will demonstrate the human ability to overcome obstacles. Noting how flowers always grow back after a long and cold winter, she uses her choreography to suggest that people can also find joy after difficult moments. Performed by Isabella Castro, Alessia Di Palma, Autumn Ivan, Travis Keith, Eva Rodriguez Castro and Olivia Williams, the work encourages audiences to pursue happiness after challenging circumstances, rather than settle for mere survival. “Never stagnate in moments of utter desperation and sadness. Pick yourself back up and bloom towards the sun,” says Cummings.

undivulged dancers

Undivulged by Emma Tate will bring light to the challenges experienced by women in a patriarchal society. One of her choreographic goals is to break the stigma around problems that women face, as she and the dancers expose the less glamorous parts of being a woman. Performers Liz Cairns, Sabrina Doughty, Madelyn Moneypenny, Emily Morton, Sonya Singh, Grace Sokolow and Tehillah James use their movement to support each other through externalization of their hidden obstacles. Throughout the piece, Tate asks, “How do we move forward in a world that diminishes the female voice and body?”

artificially authentic dancers

Christiano DiDomenico’s Artificially Authentic questions how to find authenticity despite the influence of others. This solo work, performed in alternance by Katherine Colley and Maya Erwin, engages with the idea of personality and how one’s personality is affected or altered by the people around them. In the creation process, DiDomenico explored “social chameleon” tendencies, which he describes as the habit of changing one’s outward personality based on the expectations of others. To highlight this research, as the soloists perform the work, they are surrounded by a 15-person ensemble. The presence of the supporting dancers sets the stage for a display of self-discovery.

Déjà Vécu dancers

Déjà Vécu by Rosie Halpin also explores beliefs about human nature. In contrast to the other works, Halpin’s choreography uses a mystical lens to approach the notion of already having lived through a situation. She directed her questioning of past events toward an exploration of life after death. This piece, danced by Regan Baird, Clara Chemtov, Kerry Halpin, Annie Spence, Hanna Thakore and Andie Weir, examines the idea of reconnecting with previous iterations of oneself from an undetermined afterlife. In her process, Halpin muses, “Maybe we are all just warped versions of past selves, like a cracked mirror that distorts a reflection.”

Series A: Continuous will run from Nov. 22 to 24 at 7 p.m. Series B: Unbounded runs on the same days at 8:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15 in advance (until Nov. 19) and $22 at the door. They can be purchased through the box office at 416-736-5888 or online at ampd.yorku.ca/boxoffice.

Webinar explores how research can inform antimicrobial resistance policy

A man holding a pill and a glass of water

The Global Strategy Lab’s AMR Policy Accelerator at York University will host a one-hour webinar to explore global health and development challenges posed by antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and the need for collaboration between researchers and policymakers.

Bridging the AMR Research – Policy Divide will run Nov. 22 from 10 to 11 a.m. and feature a panel of experts who will delve into the challenges, and opportunities, surrounding evidence-informed AMR policymaking. The event aims to be a dynamic exchange of ideas, providing valuable insights into the complexities of AMR and the ways in which research can directly inform policy for more effective outcomes.

Millions of lives are at stake annually due to AMR, with its impact extending beyond human health to thwart progress on critical United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), and Climate Action (SDG 13).

AMR not only claims lives but also undermines efforts to achieve sustainable development, making it imperative to bridge the gap between research and policy. New data and research on AMR emerge weekly, highlighting the need to establish pathways that connect researchers with policymakers. This collaboration aims to ensure that high-quality, context-specific AMR research informs the development, updating and implementation of policies. Taking a scientific approach to enhance the effectiveness of policies makes them more likely to succeed while minimizing costs through evidence-based decision-making.

Panellists for this event are:

  • Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention;
  • Professor Clare Chandler of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine;
  • Susan Rogers Van Katwyk, managing director of the AMR Policy Accelerator, research director of global antimicrobial resistance and adjunct professor at York University; and
  • Dr. Zubin Shroff of the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research.

Moderating the event will be York University Associate Professor A. M. Viens, York Research Chair in Population Health Ethics and Law and inaugural director of York’s School of Global Health.

Register for the event here.

Research day to highlight environmental studies PhD students

Panoramic photo a hand clasping miniature globe with view of arid mountain range behind in the distance

On Nov. 14, the PhD Environmental Studies Association (PhESSA), with the support of the Environmental Studies (ES) PhD Program and the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC), is curating an in-person research day that will engage the exciting and provocative work of ES PhD students.

The event, titled “On Fire,” will take place in N120 of the Ross Building from 9 a.m to 4 p.m, with the aim to celebrate the work of ES PhD students working for social and environmental justice, while bringing them together with faculty members and larger communities of scholarship, activism and practice.

The event’s theme – “On Fire” – is drawn from how the day’s event will focus attention on the many fires involved in the students’ work: material, political, inspirational. As the event’s description explains: “On Fire because the world is burning, literally and politically. On Fire because inspirational people and movements are working for social and environmental justice.”

Following arrival and coffee, attendees will be welcomed to the days-worth of panels by Melvin Chan, a graduate teaching assistant representing PhESSA, and Philip Kelly, associate dean of EUC.

Each panel – all chaired by Phyllis Novack, director of Maloca Living Labs, and made up of three to four speakers – is organized by theme.

  • Panel I: Multispecies Research “On Fire”;
  • Panel II: No Extraction Between the Branches: Epistolary in the Ruins of Fossil Capitalism;
  • Panel III: Burning Political Questions; and
  • Panel IV: Setting Creative Fires.

At noon, a special keynote presentation will also be given by Camille Turner, an artist who recently completed her PhD in environmental studies at York, titled “UnMapping: An Afronautic Journey.”

Closing thoughts will be provided by Alice Hovorka, dean of EUC.

The event is open to all York community members. For further information contact Novak at phyllisnovak4@gmail.com.

Sustainability Innovation Fund accepting applications

The Sustainability Innovation Fund (SIF) is now accepting applications for projects on York University campuses that advance the University’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as contribute to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) 13 (Climate Action).

SIF supports projects that advance climate action and York’s net-zero goal, while creating opportunities for members of the York University community to actively engage in sustainability initiatives, specifically related to climate action and reducing GHG emissions and utilize the campus as a living lab, empowering individuals to be agents of change and take meaningful steps to reduce our impact on the planet. Proposals may address direct or indirect emission such as commuting, energy, food, waste, behaviour change, awareness and engagement or nature-based solutions.

This round of SIF is intended to provide funding for projects focused on identifying, accelerating and evaluating climate mitigation solutions and strategies, specifically:

  • seed funding (potentially for larger proposals in the next SIF round or external grant applications);
  • funding where there are matching funds from an academic unit or administrative office; or
  • projects that can be achieved generally under $10,000 from SIF(although compelling requests for up to $25,000 may be considered).

The call for applications is now open. The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1.

All proposals for the Sustainability Innovation Fund must be submitted to the Office of Sustainability by email to sustainability@yorku.ca

A selection committee will evaluate the applications using the Proposal Assessment Rubric and will make recommendations for funding to the president. Approved projects will receive funding in January 2024.

Information about the Sustainability Innovation Fund, documents, forms and criteria are available on the Office of Sustainability website.

Information and consultation

Reach out to the Office of Sustainability for more information or for a consultation by email at sustainability@yorku.ca.

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 globeandmailevents.com/newnuclearlive/speaker. Event registration will close at 9 a.m. on Oct. 20.

Osgoode Fellow to focus on environmental law, Indigenous land rights

Trowbridge Conservation Area Thunder Bay Ontario Canada in summer featuring beautiful rapids and Canadian Forest with blue sky on summer

Osgoode Hall Law School master’s student Julia Brown, the 2023-24 Environmental Justice & Sustainability Clinic (EJSC) Fellow, hopes she can play a part in ensuring the development of Ontario’s mineral-rich Ring of Fire region, on First Nations land in the environmentally sensitive Hudson Bay Lowlands, does not take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous people who live there.

Julia Brown
Julia Brown

Brown will work with leaders of Neskantaga First Nation in an effort to draft the terms of a workable partnership with the Government of Canada as it prepares to undertake a regional environmental assessment prior to any mineral development. The assessment is taking place under Canada’s Impact Assessment Act, which replaced the Environmental Assessment Act in 2019.

Brown said the original terms of reference for the regional assessment gave First Nations in the area only token participation in the process. After strong pushback, the federal agency involved agreed to review the terms.

“That was disappointing,” she explained, “because this legislation was supposed to be a real improvement in terms of the roles that First Nations would play.

“That was a glaring omission,” she said. “Whether development should go ahead really should be up to the people who live there and whose land it is.”

While various levels of government have recognized the importance of reconciliation, they are still reluctant to give up control – especially when it comes to mineral wealth, Brown remarked.

The federal assessment will be among the first to look at a whole region; environmental assessments are typically project specific. Brown said the Ontario government has, to date, declined to participate in the federal process and is carrying out separate assessments focused only on proposed roads connecting the area to the provincial highway system.

“There is no precedent for the federal government in terms of how this regional assessment has to be structured,” she explained. “So we’ll be working on how it could be structured so there is a real partnership between First Nations and the federal government.”

Last year, Neskantaga First Nation marked its 10,000th day of being under a hazardous drinking water advisory, despite federal commitments to fix the problem. Located 463 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont., the fly-in community is situated amid a vast wetland that acts as a huge carbon sink.

Some have called the region the “lungs of Mother Earth,” and the First Nations people there call the region the “Breathing Lands.” In total, the Ring of Fire region spans about 5,000 square kilometres and is rich in chromite, nickel, copper, platinum, gold, zinc and other valuable minerals – some of which are required for battery production.

Brown, who previously worked as a lawyer for Toronto-based OKT Law, the country’s largest Indigenous rights law firm, said she feels fortunate to be working with the Environmental Justice & Sustainability Clinic and its current director, Professor Dayna Nadine Scott – and the feeling is mutual.

“We feel very fortunate this year at the EJSC to have someone with Julia’s depth of knowledge and experience to be stepping into the role of clinic Fellow,” said Scott.

As part of her graduate research, Brown will focus on the issue of emotion in judicial reasoning and how that influences Indigenous title cases. Her research adviser is Professor Emily Kidd White.

EUC Climate Seminar examines populist environmentalism

image shows a forest and stream

The next instalment of York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) 2023-24 Climate Seminar, taking place on Oct. 19 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in 140 Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building, features geographer Kai Bosworth speaking about the role of populist environmentalism in contemporary struggles for climate justice.

Kai Bosworth
Kai Bosworth

Bosworth, an assistant professor of international studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, will present a talk titled “Pipeline Populism and the Climate Cycle of Struggles: 2010-2020,” which will describe the rise and demise of left-populist environmentalism as one tendency within the “cycle of struggles” over climate in the 2010s. This tendency, he says, can be found in Upper Midwest pipeline opposition movements, in moves towards mass mobilization such as the People’s Climate March, and in student and youth movements advocating for a Green New Deal.

Bosworth’s book, Pipeline Populism: Grassroots Environmentalism in the 21st Century (University of Minnesota Press, 2022), examines pipeline opposition movements in the central U.S. and the ways they have transformed the politics of climate justice. It argues that while a form of environmental populism challenges the climate movement’s history of elitism, it also remakes hierarchies of race, class and nation to compose its political subjects.

York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change is bringing climate crisis scholars and activists to the University on a regular basis through its Climate Seminar. All are welcome to attend, either in person or virtually via livestream. Those interested in attending can register at tinyurl.com/4zshzzw5.

Lassonde researchers pursue sustainable change

Aspire lightbulb idea innovation research

Researchers from the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University are gearing up for new interdisciplinary research projects that address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with support from the Lassonde Innovation Fund (LIF), an initiative that provides faculty members with financial support.

This year’s projects aim to find innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including climate change, access to clean drinking water, issues in health diagnostics and more. Nearly 80 per cent of this year’s LIF projects involve interdisciplinary work, 50 per cent are led by women and six per cent address multiple SDGs.

Learn more about this year’s LIF projects below.

Project: “Smart contact lenses (SCL) as promising alternatives to invasive vitreous sample analysis for in-situ eye disease studies” by Razieh Salahandish and Pouya Rezai

Razieh Salahandish
Razieh Salahandish

Salahandish from the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at Lassonde is collaborating with Mechanical Engineering Professor and Department Chair Rezai along with Dr. Tina Felfeli, a physician at the University Health Network, on an initiative aimed at fabricating smart contact lens (SCL) systems as a non-invasive tool that can detect and analyze disease-indicating biomarkers in human tears. For clinicians, examining biomarkers is an important part of monitoring eye health that can help improve disease detection and patient outcomes.

Pouya Rezai
Pouya Rezai

The SCL systems will be designed to examine two clinically relevant eye condition biomarkers, vascular endothelial growth factor and tumour necrosis factor-alpha. Typically, these biomarkers are isolated from gel-like tissue in the eye, also known as vitreous fluid, using invasive surgical methods. This LIF project poses a convenient alternative that is less complex for medical professionals and more manageable for patients. It also sets a strong foundation for future investigations in this unexplored field.

Project: “Electric gene sensor for disease diagnostics purposes” by Ebrahim Ghafar-Zadeh

Ebrahim Ghafar-Zadeh
Ebrahim Ghafar-Zadeh

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are considered the gold standard for detecting genes associated with diseases and were widely used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for diagnostic purposes; however, PCR tests lack portability and cost-effectiveness, so there is a need for more accessible options.

To address this issue, Ghafar-Zadeh, associate professor in Lassonde’s Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, is developing a novel PCR-like mechanism, which offers several advantages for detecting existent and emerging diseases over traditional detection methods. Advantages include low cost, high sensitivity and user friendliness.

With support from the LIF, Ghafar-Zadeh will explore the use of innovative electronic sensors to detect genes associated with different viruses. Substantial preliminary work shows the sensors’ output is significantly affected by the presence of a virus gene, thereby indicating its corresponding disease. Building on this discovery, experiments will be conducted using known genes to develop electronic software and hardware that can prove the presence of a specific virus gene and its respective disease.

Through successful research outcomes, Ghafar-Zadeh aims to secure future funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to support the implementation of this technology in clinical settings.

Project: “Controlling biofilm formation and microbial recontamination in secondary water storage containers with UV light emitting diodes and targeted cleaning procedures” by Stephanie Gora, Ahmed El Dyasti and Syed Imran Ali

Ahmed El Dyasti
Ahmed El Dyasti
Stephanie Gora
Stephanie Gora

Continuous access to clean running water is a privilege that many global communities do not have. In areas such as refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) settlements, as well as rural and underserved regions in Canada, community members must collect water from public distribution points and store it in secondary containers for future use.

This stored water is highly susceptible to recontamination by various microbial species, including biofilm-forming bacteria, which are microbial colonies that are extremely resistant to destruction.

Syed Imran Ali
Syed Imran Ali

Ultraviolet (UV) light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are a promising, yet underexplored, method that can be used to inactivate microbial colonies in biofilms and prevent their formation. Civil engineering rofessors Gora and El Dyasti have teamed up with Ali, a research Fellow in global health and humanitarianism at York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, on a solutions-driven project to improve water quality in underserved communities using UV LEDs and targeted container-cleaning procedures.

With support from the LIF, the research team will design and develop UV LED-equipped storage containers and analyze their ability to disinfect water in containers with biofilms. Experiments will also be performed to examine the potential benefits of combining UV LEDs with targeted container-cleaning procedures.

Successful results from this project may help ensure clean and safe water for refugee and IDP communities, as well as other underserved regions.

Project: “Smart vibration suppression system for micromobility in-wheel-motor electric vehicles for urban transportation” by George Zhu

George Zhu
George Zhu

Traffic congestion is not only a nuisance for road users, but it also causes excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Recent advances in electric vehicle (EV) technology have found that microvehicles, which are lightweight and drive at speeds up to 35 miles per hour, are a sustainable and convenient alternative to many traditional modes of transportation.

Specifically, micromobility EVs using in-wheel motors (IWMs) are becoming increasingly popular considering their benefits such as high energy efficiency and roomy passenger space. However, these vehicles are susceptible to unwanted vibration and tire jumping, which compromise driving safety and user comfort.

Through his LIF project, Zhu, from Lassonde’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, will design and develop a novel vibration-control technology for micromobility EVs with IWMs. The project will use a SARIT EV to test a smart suspension system, which includes active and passive vibration suppression and absorption systems. This work aims to develop new vibration-control technology, improve user experience and address deficiencies of micromobility IWM EVs. Zhu, who is a co-founding director of the Manufacturing Technology Entrepreneurship Centre, will also use this work to leverage Lassonde’s ongoing collaboration with Stronach International on the SARIT EV project.

Project: “Multifunctional building envelopes with integrated carbon capture” by Paul O’Brien and Ronald Hanson

Paul O’Brien
Paul O’Brien

Global warming is, in part, caused by the energy consumption and generation needed to support daily life, including the operation of buildings. In fact, the building sector accounts for 30 per cent of global energy consumption.

To help reduce greenhouse gas emission from building operations, mechanical engineering professors O’Brien and Hanson are developing and testing energy-efficient building envelopes using Trombe walls.

Ronald Hanson
Ronald Hanson

Trombe walls are a unique technology that can utilize solar energy to provide buildings with passive heat, thereby reducing heating energy consumption of buildings by up to 30 per cent. Inspired by previously conducted studies, this LIF project will explore the multifunctionality of a modified Trombe wall with water-based thermal energy storage, which demonstrates the potential to provide indoor lighting, heated air, heated water and building-integrated carbon capture.

York program funds 16 Global South health-care hubs

heart and stethoscope

A York University-led program is helping bolster health care with artificial intelligence (AI) solutions throughout the Global South by providing more than $5.8 million in funding for 16 projects in as many countries. The projects aim to combat infectious diseases, including polio surveillance in Ethiopia and helping Indigenous communities in the Philippines.

“We have led the call to strengthen the health-care system in low- and medium-income countries (LMIC) in the Global South for more than a year now,” says Assistant Professor Jude Kong, executive director of the Global South Artificial Intelligence for Pandemic and Epidemic Preparedness and Response Network (AI4PEP), which received $7.25 million in funding from the International Development Research Centre in 2022 to develop a multi-regional, interdisciplinary network to use AI and big data to improve public health preparedness and response, and promote equitable and ethical solutions.

Jude Kong
Jude Kong

Originally from Cameroon, Kong understands the strains faced by health-care systems in LMIC and the importance of southern-led solutions. “Funding these projects will help strengthen capacity and support prevention, early detection, preparedness, mitigation and control of emerging or re-emerging infectious disease outbreaks in LMIC countries in Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East, which, as we know, can make their way to every country in the world.” Incidents of disease outbreaks are expected to increase in severity and frequency as more viruses, bacteria and parasites jump from animals to people.

After a recent call for project proposals, the AI4PEP team received 221 submissions from 47 countries, with 142 of them from Africa, 40 from Asia and 26 from Latin America. The overall program framework centres around a gender, equity, inclusion and decolonization lens.

Vinitha_Gingatharan
Vinitha Gingatharan

“AI4PEP at York University is deepening the understanding of how equitable and responsibly designed artificial intelligence can lead to southern-led solutions to strengthen public health-care systems in the Global South,” says Vinitha Gengatharan, assistant vice-president, global engagement and partnerships. “This is just the start of a growing, multi-regional network to improve and strengthen public health preparedness and response to disease outbreaks that can make a real difference in the lives of people.”

The projects are led by universities in collaboration with health-care system stakeholders in 16 regions of the Global South. They include – among others – AI and modelling for community-based detection of zoonotic disease with increasing climate change in Senegal; a Foundation for Medical Research-University of Mumbai project; an AI-powered early detection system for communicable respiratory diseases based on integrated data sets at Wits University in South Africa; an Al-Quds University project; and an AI and eco-epidemiology-based early warning systems to improve public health response to mosquito-borne viruses in the Dominican Republic. 

As diseases increasingly spread from animals to people with continued human encroachment into natural landscapes, AI4PEP’s One Health concept is designed to recognize and respond to the reality that human health is interdependent with the health of animals and the environment. Climate change is another huge factor.

“Climate change is exacerbating existing health and social inequities by increasing the vulnerability of climate hotspots to the emergence and re-emergence of many infectious diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever and Zika,” says Associate Professor Ali Asgary of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “This is a huge initiative, but with the support of many of York’s research institutes, including the York Emergency Mitigation, Engagement, Response and Governance Institute directed by Distinguished Research Professor Jianhong Wu, as well as CIFAL and the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, I believe we can all collaborate with this exceptional global network to respond to the increasing threat of infectious diseases.”

AI solutions and data science approaches are increasingly being used across the globe to identify risks, conduct predictive modelling and provide evidence-based recommendations for public health policy and action. 

“Responding to the complex nature of these interactions in a timely way requires the ability to analyze large data sets across multiple sectors,” says Kong, who is also director of the Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence and Data Innovation Consortium.

But even with the promised good of these innovative tools to improve public health outcomes, the team recognizes there are important ethical, legal and social implications that, if not appropriately managed and governed, can translate into significant risks to individuals and populations. AI4PEP intends to deepen the understanding of designing responsible AI solutions.

“Responsible AI entails intentional design to enhance health equity and gender equality and avoid amplifying existing inequalities and biases. We are working toward the realization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; in particular, three and five – good health and well-being, and gender equality,” says Kong. “Colonialism and gendered oppression have enduring effects, disproportionately impacting the health and quality of life of formerly colonized people and vulnerable groups, including women, gender non-conforming people, people with disabilities, rural communities and low-income households.”

Projects within the initiative will work closely with governments, public health agencies, civil society and others to generate new knowledge and collaborations to inform practice and policies at subnational, national, regional and global levels. 

Learn more at News @ York.

CFI funding supports professors developing sustainable future

hands holding a globe

A new engineering facility to develop innovative nanomaterials at York University is part of the latest round of research infrastructure projects to receive support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF), announced by the federal government earlier this week.

Reza Rizvi, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Lassonde School of Engineering, will oversee the facility alongside co-principal investigators Stephanie Gora, an assistant professor of civil engineering, and Marina Freire-Gormaly, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

The JELF investment, totalling $138,585, will enable the York engineers to utilize cutting-edge scientific techniques and conduct the precise analysis needed to develop innovative nanomaterials that address energy and environmental challenges, like climate change, clean energy generation and storage, e-waste, and water treatment and monitoring. The project is titled “Infrastructure for Innovative Nanomaterials for Energy and Environment.”

“I am grateful for CFI’s investment in our applied research to create a more sustainable future for Canada and the world,” said Rizvi, who specializes in the scalable manufacturing of advanced materials. “Nanomaterials have a critical role to play in technological solutions that will help protect our planet.”

The facility will be housed in a shared lab space at Lassonde and will feature: a confocal Raman microscope (a Bruker Senterra II), a laser-based device that allows for microscopic examination; and an infrared spectrometer (Bruker Alpha II), an instrument used to measure light absorbed by a material sample. The facility will also be used to train highly-qualified personnel, including graduate students and postdoctoral Fellows.

“Every day, researchers dedicate their knowledge and skills to addressing issues that are important to Canadians, including improving the environment, health care and access to education. They contribute to a better future for all Canadians,” said Roseann O’Reilly Runte, president and CEO of CFI. “At the Canada Foundation for Innovation, we are proud to support their efforts with well-designed labs and necessary equipment placed in the communities and environments where they will be the most effectively employed.”

The nanotechnologies developed by Rizvi, Gora, Freire-Gormaly and their teams will advance several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including: good health and well-being (SDG 3); clean water and sanitation (SDG 6); affordable and clean energy (SDG 7); industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9); responsible consumption and production (SDG 12); and climate action (SDG 13).

Other JELF-funded projects at York

Three other York researchers also received funding: Shooka Karimpour, an assistant professor of civil engineering at Lassonde, for “Infrastructure for High-Definition Microplatic Detection (HD-MPD) and Identity Analysis” ($126,254); and Adeyemi Oludapo Olusola and Joshua Thienpoint, assistant professors in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, for “Landscapes in Transition: Environmental Sensitivities Due to Climate Change” ($198,161).

The York-led projects are among 396 research infrastructure projects to receive more than $113 million at 56 universities across Canada.

The CFI funding is part of a wave of recent investments made by the Government of Canada, supporting 4,700 researchers and research projects with more than $960 million in grants, scholarships and programs. “Through this funding, the Government of Canada is investing in the next generation of researchers and inspiring them to continue to think outside the box and tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow,” said François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry.

For the full CFI announcement, visit innovation.ca/news/jelf-august-2023.