New lecture series to spotlight York’s research leadership

innovation image

York University’s Organized Research Units (ORU) are launching the Big Thinking Lecture Series, which will feature researchers, artists and activists taking up some of the world’s most pressing issues and ideas in their fields, from water research and aging to digital literacy and more.

As a leader in research and innovative thinking, York has a lot to show in the ways its faculty and students are helping right the future with big ideas. The new lecture series, which will consist of various talks and artistic events held throughout the calendar year, will see expert York speakers present research and creative works that span their respective fields, which include muscle health, Indigenous knowledges and languages, youth and aging, Canadian studies, technoscience and society, feminist activism, and Jewish social and political thought.

John Tsotsos
John Tsotsos

“This bold new series will showcase the depth and breadth of research excellence generated by York’s Organized Research Units and their commitment to fostering critical thought and dialogue on today’s global challenges,” said Amir Asif, vice-president research and innovation. “The Big Thinking Lecture Series builds on York’s proud tradition of interdisciplinary scholarship and participatory research. I applaud the ORU directors for bringing this series forward.”

The inaugural lecture of the series, titled “Vision Beyond a Glance,” is presented by the Centre for Vision Research and will feature John Tsotsos, a Distinguished Research Professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering. He will explore the meaning of vision and explain how we effortlessly perform visual tasks many times a day. The in-person event will take place on Jan. 26 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in 519 Kaneff Tower.

For more details about the inaugural event and the series itself, visit yorku.ca/research/bigthinking.

Innovative safe water tool receives major grant

Many hands reaching for tap water

Access to clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene are critical to health and well-being, and yet an estimated two billion people globally still lack access to it. Researchers in the Humanitarian Water Engineering Lab at York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research are doing their part to address this crisis, and their efforts have been recognized with a major grant from Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge (CHIC).

Water supply tower at the Kyaka II refugee settlement in Uganda
Water supply tower at the Kyaka II refugee settlement in Uganda, where the SWOT has been deployed to help ensure water safety. Photo by Gabrielle String.

Valued at $300,000, the CHIC Transition to Scale Grant will provide transformational funding to accelerate the global scale-up of the York-developed Safe Water Optimization Tool (SWOT), an innovative water quality modelling platform that helps humanitarian responders ensure water safety and protect public health in crisis zones globally.

This free and open-source tool has been deployed in nine countries by seven different humanitarian organizations, as part of initiatives aiming to improve water safety for over half a million people. The new funding will support the development and piloting of the tool as a joint quality-assurance platform used by safe water programs in a selected country this year.

“This grant will enable the integration of the SWOT into the ways of working in the humanitarian sector,” says Syed Imran Ali, an adjunct professor at York’s Lassonde School of Engineering and research fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute who leads the Humanitarian Water Engineering Lab. “We are excited to work with local implementing and global co-ordination partners to demonstrate how the SWOT can help ensure safe water program effectiveness and protect public health in crisis zones globally. We are incredibly grateful to Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge for their amazing support in the past, and now with this grant.”

Syed Imran Ali
Syed Imran Ali

Fawad Akbari, director of humanitarian innovation at Grand Challenges Canada, which oversees the implementation of CHIC, says, “The Safe Water Optimization Tool is a pre-eminent example of how innovation adoption in the humanitarian system can directly and efficiently save and improve lives. We are proud to continue to support this initiative and are looking forward to nurturing this next stage of collaboration.”

The SWOT was developed by a team of researchers and humanitarian practitioners at the Dahdaleh Institute and Lassonde, including Ali; Lassonde Associate Professor Usman Khan; Professor James Orbinski; and Lassonde PhD candidate Michael De Santi; with collaboration from Dahdaleh Institute research staff James E. Brown, Mohamed Moselhy and Ngqabutho Zondo.

Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge is a partnership of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and Global Affairs Canada, with support from Grand Challenges Canada. CHIC seeks to enable local organizations, humanitarian agencies, and the private sector to work alongside affected communities to respond more nimbly to complex emergencies, address the unprecedented magnitude of suffering around the world and empower people to create better lives for themselves. This challenge seeks to fund and accelerate innovative solutions that enable life-improving assistance to reach the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach people in conflict-generated humanitarian crises.

To learn more about the Safe Water Optimization Tool, read YFile‘s recent story or visit safeh2o.app. To learn more about Creating Hope in Conflict: a Humanitarian Grand Challenge, visit humanitariangrandchallenge.org.

Research analyzes Ontario’s sanitation infrastructure

water tap

A recent study by Brazilian scholar Claudio Antonio Klaus Júnior, who conducted part of his research at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School as an international visiting research trainee, unveils critical insights into the sanitation disparities between Santa Catarina, Brazil, and Ontario, Canada.

Claudio Antonio Klaus Júnior
Claudio Antonio Klaus Júnior

The study, titled “Law, Sanitation, and Sustainability: A Comparative Analysis Between Municipalities in the State of Santa Catarina, Brazil, and the Province of Ontario, Canada in Light of Sustainable Development Goals 6 and 11,” reveals a stark contrast in sanitation access and quality between the two regions, despite over 99 per cent of the population in both areas having access to potable water.

The research highlights that between 2019 and 2020, Brazil saw a slight increase in sewage collection, from 74.5 per cent to 75.7 per cent. According to the study, a significant portion of the population, 47.6 per cent, still lacked sewage collection services, and only 55.8 per cent were connected to the sewage network. This is in sharp contrast to Ontario, where efforts towards improving sanitation infrastructure have been much more consistent and effective.

Klaus’s work emphasizes the urgent need for informed policies and investments in Brazilian sanitation infrastructure. It illustrates that more than half of the municipalities in Santa Catarina, Brazil, lack sewage services, and many still need plans to meet the sanitation universalization goal set by the legal framework. This research serves as a call to action for Brazil to collaborate with Canada to exchange best practices to enhance quality of life and environmental sustainability through improved sanitation services.

This study has garnered attention and praise from the Ministry of Cities ombudsman in Brazil and Canada’s minister of environment, who acknowledged its alignment with Canada’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

With support from the Santa Catarina Research & Innovation Support Foundation (FAPESC) in Brazil, Klaus, who holds a master’s degree in development and society from UNIARP, focuses his research on the intersection between sanitation, law and sustainable development.

York-developed safe water innovation earns international praise

Child drinking water from outdoor tap water well

The Safe Water Optimization Tool (SWOT), an innovative technology used to help humanitarian responders deliver safe water in crisis zones, developed by two professors in York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering and Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, was recently highlighted as a success story in two international publications.

Syed Imran Ali

Built by Syed Imran Ali, an adjunct professor at Lassonde and research Fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute, in collaboration with Lassonde Associate Professor Usman Khan, the web-based SWOT platform generates site-specific and evidence-based water chlorination targets to ensure water remains safe to drink all the way to the point of consumption. It uses machine learning and process-based numerical modelling to generate life-preserving insight from the water quality monitoring data that is already routinely collected in refugee camps.

One of the SWOT’s funders, the U.K.-based ELRHA Humanitarian Innovation Fund, recently published a case study on the tool to serve as an example of a successful humanitarian innovation.

As a result of that publication, the SWOT was then highlighted as a success story in another case study, this time in the U.K. government’s latest white paper, titled “International development in a contested world: ending extreme poverty and tackling climate change.”

Water quality staff tests chlorination levels in household stored water at the Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan. Photo by Syed Imran Ali.

“These international recognitions highlight the impact our research is having on public health engineering in humanitarian operations around the world,” explained Ali.

As his team works to scale up the SWOT globally, he believes these publications will help increase awareness of and confidence in the technology. “We’re excited to build new partnerships with humanitarian organizations and help get safe water to the people who need it most,” he said.

For more information about the Safe Water Optimization Tool, visit safeh2o.app.

To learn more about how this innovation is advancing, read this YFile story.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Lassonde PhD students recognized for environmental research

Award stock image banner from pexels

Three Lassonde School of Engineering PhD candidates in civil engineering have been recognized – two with awards and one with publication approval – for work in environmental research that promises to help right the future.

The award-winning students are:

Gurpreet Kaur, third-year PhD candidate

Gurpreet Kaur
Gurpreet Kaur

In May 2023, Kaur presented research focusing on microorganisms to degrade harmful contaminants in groundwater at the International In-Situ Thermal Treatment (i2t2) Symposium in Banff, Alta., where she was honoured with a Best Presentation Award.

More than nine million people in Canada depend on groundwater as their primary source of drinking water. If groundwater is contaminated, pollutants can reach consumers and cause harmful effects like cancer and other diseases,” she says. Kaur specifically studies biomediation, a process that uses microorganisms that are naturally present in the subsurface to degrade environmental pollutants. However, the activity of these microorganisms may be hindered by cool temperatures below ground. To solve this issue, some remediation strategies supplement the subsurface with heat, but that can be an expensive process.

“My work analyzes the effect of geothermal heat pumps on bioremediation,” says Kaur. “This is a sustainable and cost-effective solution that can help enhance the growth and activity of microorganisms.” In addition to improving the efficiency of bioremediation, geothermal heat pumps can be used to provide heating and cooling to surrounding buildings, thereby serving two functions at once.

To explore the effects of geothermal heat pumps on bioremediation, Kaur isolated and analyzed two pollutant-degrading bacteria strains from geothermal borehole soil samples. Her analysis showed the strains have the ability to degrade Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene (BTEX), four common chemical contaminants found in groundwater. She also applied heat to these pollutant-degrading bacteria, which resulted in significantly increased bacterial growth and BTEX degradation rate, suggesting the inherent beneficial effects that geothermal heat pumps may have on bacteria. The results of Kaur’s work demonstrate the great promise of this modified method for bioremediation, which could ensure clean drinking water for millions of Canadians.

Michael De Santi, second-year PhD candidate

Michael De Santi
Michael De Santi

De Santi received an award for an outstanding presentation, given at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna, about his research focusing on developing the Safe Water Optimization Tool (SWOT) using machine learning methods.

De Santi’s research aims to develop and implement data-driven solutions for water safety issues in refugee and internally displaced person (IDP) settlements with SWOT. Primary sources of drinking water in these settlements are highly susceptible to contamination, which creates a risk for people to contract waterborne disease upon consumption.

To decontaminate drinking water and mitigate disease risk, free residual chlorine is used as a water treatment; however, this can significantly alter its odour and taste. Using data collected from a refugee settlement in Uganda called Kyaka II, the SWOT generated a risk model to help determine an optimal concentration of free residual chlorine that allowed for a balance between water safety, as well as favourable odour and taste. This work suggests the SWOT can be effectively used in real-world scenarios, to help water system operators satisfy both water safety and consumer standards in refugee and IDP settlements.

De Santi’s ongoing research and aspirations are supported by his PhD supervisors, Professor Usman Khan and Research Fellow Syed Imran Ali, as well as the Lassonde community, and reflects engineering’s potential to impact the world. “Engineering isn’t just about learning; it’s also about solving problems,” says De Santi. “The reason I was drawn to civil engineering is because I think it can be used to tackle the most global challenges and help the most people.”

Rodrigo Alcaino Olivares, fourth-year PhD candidate

Rodrigo Alcaino Olivares
Rodrigo Alcaino Olivares

Olivares recently had an article, titled “Thermally assisted deformation of a rock column above Tomb KV42 in the Valley of the Kings, Egypt,” accepted for publication in the journal Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering.

The article is an extension of his PhD thesis, supervised by Professor Matthew Perras, which has primarily involved geological field campaigns based in Egypt. His research focuses on the thermal effects of crack growth in rocks. Examining such growths is important, as climate change in post-glacial and arid regions can significantly progress rock damage over time, leading to altered function and behaviour.

The publication summarizes Olivares’ ongoing work in the Valley of the Kings, located within a large landscape and UNESCO World Heritage Site called Theban Necropolis in Luxor, Egypt. Along with his research team, he monitored the transient conditions of a micritic-limestone rock column above a tomb, as well as an existing fracture, while investigating thermomechanical displacements with various tools. Data gathered throughout this study will enhance understanding of environmentally-driven fracture growth mechanisms and help inform approaches to preserve and protect the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Discover more about student research at Lassonde.

Dahdaleh Institute summer interns to showcase global health research

Global health

The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research (DIGHR) invites York University community members to its fifth Summer Global Health Intern Symposium on Aug. 30.

DIGHR poster

Throughout the summer term, Dahdaleh global health interns have been undertaking exciting research projects that address critical global health challenges.

On Aug. 30, eight interns will reflect on their internship and deliver a short presentation about the experience, knowledge and skills they have gained, and will share progress on their research projects, including:

DIGHR research
Global health interns
  • experiential-based simulation learning;
  • effects of resource insecurity on health outcomes;
  • mental and emotional health and wellness;
  • post-pandemic public health reforms; and
  • impact of human behaviour on antimicrobial resistance.

To learn more about this event, or to register to attend, visit yorku.ca/dighr/events/5th-summer-global-health-intern-symposium.

Lunch will be provided. All are welcome to attend.

The Dahdaleh Institute is currently hiring the next cohort of global health interns for the upcoming Fall/Winter 2023-24 academic year. All interested applicants are encouraged to visit the DIGHR website to learn more.