Calling all adventure seekers: explore outdoors through new recreation program

For York University students and community members looking to get active this semester, but don’t want to commit to the gym or a sports team, check out Athletics & Recreation’s new Outdoor Experience Program. Adventure seekers are invited to immerse themselves in Canadian culture beyond the York campuses, with staff taking participants by bus to off-campus locations to participate in a variety of outdoor activities, from hiking, treetop trekking and zip lining to horseback riding, skating and more.

The program’s first event, a hike at Crawford Lake, takes place on Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with the hike itself lasting 90 minutes. Travelling by bus, participants will head to Crawford Lake, part of Conservation Halton Parks, where they will explore the 15th-century Longhouse Village and experience what daily life was like for Indigenous people in the area over 600 years ago. Hikers can expect to see a variety of plants and animals, as well as the unique body of water of Crawford Lake. This is a great opportunity to meet new people, try something new, and get the health and well-being benefits of being active outdoors.

Other upcoming events in the series include:

  • Treetop Trekking, Oct. 27 (register by Oct. 13);
  • Horseback Riding, Nov. 12 (register by Oct. 29); and
  • Christmas Market and Skating, Dec. 8 (register by Nov. 24).

For more information about the Outdoor Experience Program, including pricing, and to register, visit the program website. The prices of the events cover transportation, entry to the experience, required equipment and a snack. All York University community members are welcome to participate.

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.

CIHR awards professor $1M grant

two people running

York University Faculty of Health Professor David Hood received a more than $1-million grant over five years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to study the role of exercise, sex and age on muscle decline by delving into the role of lysosomes in clearing out bad mitochondria from muscles.

David Hood
David Hood

It’s not about a rare illness; it’s about something that impacts all of us. “After cancer and heart disease, musculoskeletal illnesses are one of the biggest burdens on society,” says Hood, a Canada Research Chair and professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science and a pioneer in the study of exercise physiology and mitochondria in Canada. “What’s going on with the lysosomes? Why aren’t they degrading mitochondria the way they should, and can exercise improve lysosomes? We will be studying whether or not the removal of bad mitochondria can be improved by regular exercise, whether there is a biological sex difference between males and females in the removal of mitochondria and whether it’s affected by age.”

Hood, founder of the Muscle Health Research Centre at York, has been studying the synthesis of mitochondria and musculature for decades. More recently, he has taken an interest in the role of lysosomes – the “Pac-Man” organelles responsible for clearing out cellular materials when they no longer function as they should – in the removal process of worn-out mitochondria.

Mitochondria are responsible for producing the energy required to power cells, and like all cellular structures, break down over time and need to be replaced. Previous research shows a lack of removal causes a buildup of free radicals. A lack of energy production is one reason for muscle decline in aging, and exercise helps with the removal of old mitochondria, but he says the role of lysosomes is poorly understood and the research is in its infancy.

To build on this nascent body of evidence, Hood and graduate students from York will look at lysosomes and contracting muscles cells under a microscope, conduct animal studies and look at human tissue via a collaboration with research partners at the University of Florida.

Hood says mouse model studies show that females have more mitochondria in muscle tissue than males, and previous research at York also discovered that they have more lysosomes. Now, he will look at whether the same would be true in humans.

Mitochondrial research has been exploding in recent years, due to its key role in the aging process in general, and while there is much interest in developing a pill that would help along with the mitochondrial renewal process – Hood himself has done studies looking at the role of the antioxidant resveratrol found in red wine, and found it did indeed help mitochondrial function in conjunction with exercise – Hood is not a “magic pill” advocate.

“There’s no doubt that there is a ton of excitement around mitochondria in the research world – more than any other organelle, really – and there is great interest in finding the pharmaceuticals or nutraceuticals that can combine with exercise to make mitochondria work better,” says Hood. “With age and inactivity, the more mitochondria deteriorate, and the less likely people are to exercise. This leads to a further decline in mitochondrial function – a feed forward mechanism; however, the inverse is also true – training our body produces more mitochondria and gives us the energy for further exercise, helping to stave off chronic disease. As someone with a lifelong interest in athletics, as someone who teaches exercise physiology to 600 students per year, I’ve got to try to promote exercise, and the mechanisms of its health benefits, as best I can.”

“The support from CIHR for Dr. David Hood’s important research on the role of mitochondria in muscle decline will advance our understanding of how we can mitigate muscle decline to help us age better and healthier,” said Dr. David Peters, dean of York’s Faculty of Health. “The CIHR funding for his work and for that of his York colleagues in areas ranging from self-harm behaviours to the regulation of gene expression, is a recognition of the outstanding calibre of York’s research in health and how that research will benefit society.”

Watch a video of David Hood explaining his research here:

Learn more at News @ York.

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

“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.

New exhibit explores stories of loss, tragedy in long-term care homes

Elderly woman wear a mask and waving through a window.

Giving voice to the tales of devastating loss, tragedy, hopes and aspirations, COVID in the House of Old (CIHO), curated by York University professor and historian Megan Davies, will exhibit at four Greater Toronto Area (GTA) locations this fall, starting at York University’s Keele Campus on Thursday, Sept. 14, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., in the seventh-floor lounge of the Kaneff Tower.

Megan Davies
Megan Davies

Davies, of York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, will introduce the exhibit, about the impacts of the pandemic on Canadian residential care homes, with a presentation called “Stories for a Revolution.”

Davies created CIHO with the help of families, staff and residents, and their stories are represented through the wooden storytelling chairs that sit at the heart of the exhibit. The chairs feature powerful audio stories of frustration, outrage, care, love and grief that trace the fault lines that COVID-19 revealed in Canada’s eldercare system.

As one of the first public commemorations of the pandemic, CIHO brings stories from a national humanitarian crisis to Canadians and asks them to take action. CIHO remembers the thousands of Canadian care home residents and workers who died of COVID-19 or suffered extended periods of stress and isolation. Some 7,609 seniors in Canadian care homes died of COVID-19 in the first seven months of the pandemic. The chairs in this exhibit represent some of the stories told by their daughters, sons, grandchildren and more. “Kayley’s Chair,” for example, tells the story of a young woman who lived in two Saskatchewan care homes as a teenager and young adult before moving to her own house in 2019; the “Rainbow Chair,” created with the help of the Senior Pride Network, highlights the stories of queer elders in long-term care during the pandemic.

Visitors can share their own stories about COVID-19 in residential facilities and their thoughts about the future of eldercare at the exhibit’s Story Space. Story contributions will be uploaded to the project website and preserved in Montreal’s Archives Passe-Mémoire, creating a permanent national collection of these thoughts, feelings and memories. York University graduate and undergraduate students have been integral to creating and sustaining the exhibit and Story Space.

Additional GTA exhibit dates for COVID in the House of Old:

  • Thursday, Sept. 28 to Saturday, Sept. 30: Buddies in Bad Times Cabaret, 12 Alexander St., Toronto. Exhibit hours: Sept. 28, 2 to 8:30 p.m.; Sept. 29 to 30, 2 to 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 3 to Tuesday, Oct. 10: Christie Gardens Apartments & Care, 600 Melita Cres., Toronto. Exhibit hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Story Space hours: Oct. 3 to 9, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 12 to Wednesday, Oct. 18: Active Adult Centre, 377 Burnhamthorpe Rd. E., Suite 116, Mississauga, Ont.
  • Friday, Oct. 27 to Monday, Oct. 30: Castleview Wychwood Towers, 351 Christie St., Toronto.

For more information about the exhibit and the additional stops on its national tour, visit COVID in the House of Old.

See more ways York University is making headlines at News @ York.

Residence Life launches sustainability, well-being pilot program

Two Black York University students walking on the Keele Campus

Over the 2023-24 academic year, York University’s Residence Life Department is piloting two Living Learning Communities (LLCs), communities of residents who are interested in engaging in learning outside the classroom around a specific topic or theme. This year’s LLCs will seek to engage residents in a series of educational opportunities to deepen their understanding of sustainability and well-being.

In addition to the social and educational programming all residents are invited to partake in, LLC residents (selected based on interest indicated through their housing application and a series of questions to determine candidacy) participate in a sequenced set of learning opportunities tied to the community theme or topic.

The sustainability LLC, housed in Founders Residence, will engage 35 residents in a series of workshops, events and dialogues with the aim that all participants will be able to act upon principles of sustainability. The well-being LLC, in Bethune Residence, will foster 35 residents’ abilities to engage in behaviours that contribute to their mental, spiritual, sexual, emotional and physical health.

Over the course of the next eight months, LLC participants will have the opportunity to engage in two educational programs, workshops or events per month tailored to support them with their respective LLC’s learning outcome.

Additionally, participants will engage in three reflective activities over the course of the year to solidify their learning and reflection throughout their experience in the program.

Each community has a work-study Living Learning Community leader to foster connection, facilitate peer programming and engage in intentional one-on-one conversations to support participants in achieving their respective goals for the LLC program.

“I wanted to get involved with the Living Learning Community at York because it’s a great way to practice immersive learning, in the sense that we get to constantly be at one with a community that shares similar values and is constantly striving to learn and grow from their surroundings,” shares Ramisa Mustafa, student leader for the sustainability LLC. “I believe it’ll not only help me engage more with York, but also help me grow as an individual and allow more room for holistic knowledge acquisition.”

Melanie Sit, student leader for the well-being LLC, adds, “I originally was interested in becoming a don, but the application to be an LLC piqued my interests, as I enjoy learning about the topic of well-being and I had some experience with it in high school. I also love planning and running different activities and events that bring joy to other people.”

In April, the sustainability LLC pilot project was one of four applications awarded funding through the Sustainability Innovation Fund, which will support the sustainability LLC in fostering student leaders equipped to role model sustainable behaviours and foster a more sustainable culture across the York University community.

Mustafa notes, “Ultimately, experiencing a sense of community helps people hold themselves accountable for their actions and decisions, academics and a lot more, which I believe is important while living alone. These students who participate in the Living Learning Community will most likely have a more fulfilling experience at York because of the values and knowledge base they’ll have exposure to. This will help them step out as more socially aware individuals at the end of the program.”

The sustainability and well-being LLCs formally launched Sept. 6 with a welcome and orientation event for each community. Applications for the 2024-25 academic year will open in February 2024 as part of the housing application process for students.

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

Two York researchers receive Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships

gold cup with golf star confetti coming out of it

Following a highly competitive selection process, York University postdoctoral Fellows Chiara Camponeschi and Ashlee Christofferson have been named among this year’s recipients of the prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships.

Awarded by the Government of Canada, the Banting Fellowship is valued at $70,000 per year for two years and supports postdoctoral researchers who will positively contribute to the country’s economic, social and research-based growth. The award is open to scholars who are devoted to research in three areas: health, natural sciences and/or engineering, and social sciences and/or humanities.

The ambitious work of Camponeschi and Christoffersen falls into major themes identified in York’s Strategic Research Plan, such as forging a just and equitable world, and supports York’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Chiara Camponeschi

Chiara Camponeschi
Chiara Camponeschi

Camponeschi is a postdoctoral Fellow conducting research at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research. Her project, “Turning Moments of Crisis Into Moments of Care,” aims to rethink the approach to resilience and recovery in this age of systemic crises. By applying this model to the study of urban climate change, Camponeschi’s research provides practical solutions that can be leveraged in a variety of settings, from offering policy prompts for the design of infrastructures of care to making contributions to capacity-building and community practice.

“The lens of crisis has continued to be invoked to reinforce a reactive stance to change, one driven by narratives of enclosure, disconnection and austerity that are harmful to society – especially to already vulnerable groups,” says Camponeschi. “Crises, however, can be richly generative moments of rupture that reveal contradictions, incite action and stimulate new visions. They present us with the opportunity to turn moments of crisis into moments of care.”

Ashlee Christoffersen

Ashlee Christoffersen
Ashlee Christoffersen

Christoffersen is a postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Politics. Her proposed research aims to increase our understanding of how intersectionality can be applied in both policy and practice, with a unique focus on non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Titled “Operationalizing Intersectionality: Equality policy and NGOs,” the project aims to achieve positive change by highlighting the limitations of some existing NGO approaches and by impacting Canadian policy-makers’ interpretations of intersectionality.

“The question of how to apply ‘intersectionality,’ the Black feminist theory that social inequalities shape one another, is one that many across different fields have long struggled with,” explains Christoffersen. “This is because the predominant approach to inequalities has been to address these separately and thus ineffectively.”

Christoffersen underscores the importance of her research in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, which both deepened pre-existing inequalities and raised awareness of how they are intersecting.

The application deadline for the next round of Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships is Sept. 20. Learn more at

Professor receives $780,000 in CIHR funding

Global health

Professor and York University Research Chair Chun Peng received $780,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to fund a new project associated with her ongoing research into pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy disorder with a profound impact on maternal and fetal health.

York biology Professor Chun Peng working in her laboratory
Chun Peng

The grant funds a project titled “NLRC5 isoforms in placental development and pathogenesis of pre-eclampsia,” part of Peng’s long-term research goal to better understand pre-eclampsia, which usually develops after 20 weeks of gestation and is characterized by high blood pressure, as well as damage to liver, kidneys or other organs. It is the leading direct cause of maternal and fetal death in the world, with over 75,000 pregnant women and 500,000 infants dying from it each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even if someone survives the disease, it can lead to negative effects on the mother and fetus health during pregnancy, and can have lifelong negative impacts on cardiovascular health for both. The causes of pre-eclampsia are not fully understood, but it is known that abnormal placental development – in particular, the insufficient invasion of placental cells into the uterus to carry out the remodelling of the uterine blood vessels – is a major contributing factor.

The new study builds upon findings from a previous project where Peng and colleagues identified two truncated isoforms of a protein called NLRC5 in human placenta. Preliminary results suggest that these NLRC5 isoforms play important roles in regulating placental development, and they may contribute to the pathogenesis of pre-eclampsia. In this study, her lab will collaborate with researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital and Toronto General Hospital to further examine how NLRC5 exert their functions in the placenta and to determine if their over-expression will lead to the development of pre-eclampsia-like symptoms.

“This project will allow us to understand more of how placenta development is regulated during pregnancy and how the abnormal levels of NLRC5 isoforms may contribute to the development of pre-eclampsia,” says Peng. “We really hope that this can give us some clues on whether a new strategy could be developed to either prevent or treat pre-eclampsia.”

Peng, who had her York Research Chair in Women’s Reproductive Health renewed in 2021, has been conducting research to better understand pre-eclampsia since 1998, and has received several previous CIHR grants – collectively amounting to nearly $3.5 million – to study the disorder.

Health professor elected president of prestigious sociology association

basketball resting on court

Parissa Safai, a professor in York University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Science, Faculty of Health, has been elected to serve as president of the International Sociology of Sport Association (ISSA), effective Jan. 1, 2024 and until 2028.

Parissa Safai
Parissa Safai

Established in 1965, ISSA is an international scholarly organization in the field of the sociology of sport. ISSA is affiliated with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), collaborates with the International Sociology Association by leading Research Committee 27 (Sociology of Sport) and is responsible for producing the International Review for the Sociology of Sport journal.

Safai has served as general secretary of ISSA since 2020, and when she assumes her new role in January, will be the first York faculty member to serve as president of the association. “The opportunity to lead and support the international sociology of sport community through the ISSA is exciting and very meaningful for me,” she says. “The association represents a scholarly home for many from all over the world, a place where we can continue to safely engage in dialogue and debate about sport and physical culture through a sociological lens. Maintaining and protecting such a space is critical, as some of our members in some areas of the world are increasingly facing restrictions on what they can freely study and teach.”

Representing a community of diverse scholars, ISSA works to promote international co-operation in the field of the sociology of sport; exchange information gathered through research; convene international congresses, seminars and symposia; identify sociological problems in sport and organize international research programs to address them; oversee and co-ordinate ISSA’s official publications; and co-operate with other committees, groups and organizations to solve problems of mutual interest.

“ISSA is a critically important community for scholars, exploring the social, political economic, historical and cultural complexities of sport,” says Safai. “Sport is truly a global phenomenon, and its sociological study affords us opportunity to interrogate the intricate ways it can be used to reproduce inequity or to advance social justice.”

At ISSA, she says, she will be working alongside colleagues who share her vision of the association as an inclusive global scholarly community. “One of my top priorities as the incoming president will be to continue to increase the diversity and accessibility of our association and its journal, especially for Global South scholars and scholars for whom English is not their first language,” she says.

Beyond ISSA, Safai’s research and teaching interests focus on the critical study of sport at the intersection of risk, health and health care, as well as sport and social inequality, with focused attention paid to the impact of gender, socio-economic and ethnocultural inequities on accessible physical activity for all. She served as interim associate dean, teaching and learning in the Faculty of Health from 2017 to 2018; and from January 2021 to April 2022, she served as special advisor to the president for academic continuity planning and COVID-19 response.

For more information about ISSA, visit