Climate Change Research Month showcases York as community of changemakers

Trees against a blue sky

A month-long series of events hosted by York University Organized Research Units (ORU) and campus groups aim to generate awareness on climate change research and mobilize community action.

March 1 marks the start of the second annual Climate Change Research Month at York University, which features seminars, book launches, art installations and panels throughout the month.

“Climate Change Research Month was born out of a desire to unite with faculty, staff and students from across campus to take up the significant challenge posed by climate change and prompt meaningful dialogue,” said Professor Elaine Coburn, director of the Centre for Feminist Research (CFR), who spearheaded the event series. “By bringing together the arts and sciences, professional studies and humanities, social sciences and engineering, we hope to create possibilities for more just relations with each other and with the natural world that sustains all life.”

Photo by Singkham from Pexels
The month-long event series reflects York’s commitment to contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

From health impacts of global warming to climate policy to Indigenous sovereignty, the events touch on a wide variety of climate-related issues and research areas. The events, both in-person and virtual, are open to the University community to attend.

The series reflects York’s commitment to contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), specifically Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

“The University boasts a wide range of leading experts and researchers who care deeply about the world and are uniquely qualified to tackle such a pressing global issue as climate change,” said Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif. “Climate Change Research Month at York showcases this breadth of knowledge and demonstrates that we are home to a community of positive changemakers.”

One of the month’s events includes a book launch for The End of This World: Climate Justice in So-Called Canada, co-authored by Angele Alook, assistant professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and member of the Bigstone Cree Nation.

“Indigenous Peoples contribute the most to the maintaining the biodiversity and stewardship of the planet, yet we face the greatest burdens of loss and damage due to climate change,” said Alook.

Participating ORUs include the Centre for Feminist Research, the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Languages, Dahdaleh Global Health Institute, One WATER, Risk and Insurance Studies Centre, Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts and Technology, and more. 

To learn more about the series and each event, visit https://yorku.ca/research/climate-change-research-month.

York researchers invited to share, collaborate at global health workshop

FEATURED Global Health

Call for presenters: The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research invites the York University community to join the ongoing discussion on critical social science perspectives in global health research.

Critical research often involves the use of critical theory with social justice aims. Critical social science perspectives in global health (CPGH) are transdisciplinary, participatory, experimental or experiential analyses that seek greater effectiveness, equity and excellence in global health. This means engaging directly with global public health actors, structures and systems to transform global public health while remaining committed to social science theory and methodology. For more information, visit the CPGH project page.

There is an open call to York researchers to consider presenting at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research’s fourth annual, Workshop on Critical Social Science Perspectives in Global Health Research on March 29. The registration deadline for new research ideas presentations is March 20. Participants will engage with the research community at York University from a variety of disciplines to create new insights, foster collaboration and discuss research opportunities. The workshop will be an in-person event at the Dahdaleh Institute with continental breakfast and lunch. All are welcome to attend.

Critical Perspectives in Global Health Research Workshop Wednesday, March 29

Who can present?
York faculty and researchers (with the support of a York faculty member) are invited to deliver presentations.

What is the format of the presentations?
Interested participants are asked to prepare a brief five-minute, two-slide presentation on any research project, current or planned, which takes a critical social science approach to global health.

Seed grants
Following the workshop, the Dahdaleh Institute will launch the 2023 Critical Perspectives in Global Health Seed Grant program and award five research seed grants of up to $5,000 each. The seed grants will support critical global health research that contributes to the themes of the Dahdaleh Institute, which are planetary health, global health and humanitarianism, as well as global health foresighting.

For more information on these research themes, visit the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research website. For the event’s full agenda, visit the event page.

New and renewed Canada Research Chairs at forefront of important, future-defining research

Hand holding light bulb with illustration on blurred background

York University has gained four new and three renewed Canada Research Chairs (CRC). Professors Antony Chum, Arash Habibi Lashkari, Kohitij Kar and Liya Ma received new CRC appointments and Professors Christopher Caputo, Raymond W.M. Kwong and Regina Rini had their CRCs renewed.

Antony Chum is assistant professor in the School of Kinesiology in the Faculty of Health and CRC Tier II in Population Health Data Science. Deaths and diseases of despair are those that are preventable, and they include substance-use disorders, suicides and overdose deaths. In 2019, they accounted for approximately 30 per cent of deaths for Canadians aged 15 to 49 years. Research into the causes of despair and strategies to reduce it may lead to substantial improvements in quality of life and life expectancy.

Chum is establishing a national hub that will use population health data science to study the causes of – and solutions for – deaths and diseases of despair. He and his research team are investigating the epidemiology of deaths and diseases of despair as a unified phenomenon. They are also examining the role of follow-up care in preventing suicides, overdoses and substance-use disorders as well as evaluating how public policies can reduce these self-inflicted deaths and diseases.

Arash Habibi Lashkari is CRC Tier II in Cybersecurity and an associate professor in the School of Information Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS). Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving and hackers are discovering new ways to disguise themselves. Detecting these threats requires new tools that can capture behavioural patterns and alert developers. Lashkari, aims to develop the tools that can do this.

Working with his research team, they are creating an anomaly detection model for cybersecurity. The model is based on the analysis of benign users’ common behavioural patterns, which are then contrasted with those of known threats. The team is also developing a platform to increase awareness and general knowledge of cybersecurity. Ultimately, by providing the technical solutions needed to detect anomalous behaviours and encourage better cybersecurity practices, their research will improve the security of our computer systems.

Kohitij Kar is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science and CRC Tier II in Visual Neuroscience. His research lab is a core part of the Vision: Science to Technology Application (VISTA) Program and the Centre for Vision Research at York University. As humans, we can seamlessly interact with the world around us thanks to our remarkably sophisticated visual system. These interactions depend on our brain’s ability to translate the images we see. But understanding the brain’s sophisticated computations has been a challenge. As Canada Research Chair in Visual Neuroscience, Kar is uncovering the inner workings of the primate visual system.

Kar and his research team are performing detailed circuit-level neural measurements in non-human primates and relating them to specific visual behaviours. They are using their findings to develop artificial intelligence (AI) systems that mimic the primate brain in hopes of coming up with treatment strategies for mental health disorders that could improve cognitive behavioral therapies. Ultimately, Kar’s research could help millions of individuals suffering from neurological disorders by providing new knowledge about brain function.

Liya Ma is CRC Tier II in Cognitive Neurophysiology and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Health. Human brains are generally flexible enough to adapt to changes in the world around us. But, reduced flexibility in thinking and behaviour is common among patients who suffer from certain neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia or autism.

Ma and her research team are investigating how neurons in the brain enable flexibility in decision-making. The research team is exploring how neural communications can support cognitive flexibility in non-human primates. To do this, they are monitoring primates’ neuronal activities during tasks and manipulating the neurons’ activities to identify the roles that specific brain regions play in terms of cognitive and behavioural flexibility. Ma and her team are also using experimental data to design mathematical models for cognitive flexibility and identifying the pathological changes that lead to brain damage. Their research could shed light on new ways to treat neuropsychiatric disorders.

Renewed Canada Research Chairs

Christopher Caputo is CRC Tier II (renewed) in Main-Group Catalysis and Sustainable Chemistry and an assistant professor of chemistry in the Faculty of Science. Chemicals provide the building blocks of many of the products we rely on every day, from pharmaceuticals to agrochemicals for growing food to dyes for cosmetics. But producing chemicals is an energy-intensive and polluting process, so it is critical that we discover far more sustainable approaches. Caputo is tackling this problem using a two-pronged approach.

First, he and his research team are developing greener catalysts to create chemicals (a catalyst lowers the barriers to a chemical reaction). These catalysts are produced using less energy and without the need for precious metals, which are rare, expensive and unsustainable. Secondly, the team is working on an innovative platform technology from renewable feedstocks with the goal of revolutionizing personal care by producing ultra-long lasting sun protection.

Raymond (Wai Man) Kwong is CRC Tier II (renewed) in Environmental Toxicology and an associate professor in the Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science. Human activities such as overfishing, plastic dumping, oils and gas spills, and the production of agricultural and industrial waste, lead to the deaths of trillions of aquatic animals every year. Kwong is advancing our understanding of how these environmental stressors affect the function of aquatic animals’ nervous systems.

Kwong and his research team are using molecular neurophysiology and functional genetics tools to study the toxicity of metals and bisphenol compounds in the early stages of aquatic animals’ lives. Their aim is to identify the mechanisms behind their toxic response or tolerance and to shed light on the relationship between environmental toxins and geno- and phenotypes. Ultimately, their findings will support the development of better strategies to regulate water quality and protect aquatic life and biodiversity.

Regina Rini is assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, LA&PS and CRC Tier II (renewed) in Social Reasoning. In today’s political climate, social media is intensifying divisions and artificial intelligence is being used to target political messaging in new and effective ways. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have undermined our existing social norms around sharing information. (A social norm is a widely shared expectation about how members of a society should conduct themselves.) Rini’s research seeks to understand how best to manage the social disruptions caused by rapid technological changes while also protecting the ability of individuals to make moral decisions.

Rini and her research team are using moral philosophy and social science tools to examine how modern, diverse societies, like Canada’s, can manage disagreement and create shared social space. They are focusing on the social norms that are affected by shifts in technology and determining how new norms around truth and sincerity might protect democracies from the harms caused by these shifts.

The announcement of the Canada Research Chair appointments was made by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, during his announcement Nov. 22 of an investment of more than $139 million to support 176 new and renewed Canada Research Chairs across 46 institutions in Canada.

Students can submit abstract for World Water Day research celebration

Water droplets

One WATER, a York University Organized Research Unit, invites artistic and scientific presentations in recognition of World Water Day (March 22). Abstract submission is now open to all graduate and undergraduate students at York University for an event on March 20.

The presentation topics should be water-related, including those related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs): good health and well-being (UN SDG 3); clean water and sanitation (UN SDG 6); industry, innovation and infrastructure (UN SDG 9); sustainable cities and communities (UN SDG 11); climate action (UN SDG 13); and life below water (UN SDG 14). Presentation topics may also focus on climate change, human rights, artificial intelligence, and resource management.

Presentations should be in an artistic form, from visual (posters, infographics, pictures, films) to other forms including literary and performance art. Submissions are accepted from individuals as well as groups. Undergraduate students wishing to participate must identify a faculty mentor when submitting an abstract.

Please note that the content of each presentation must be accessible to the general public. Students will be provided with coaching to ensure that scientific research can be understood by high school students and University students and those with basic scientific knowledge. Presenters (and/or co-presenters) are expected to attend the March 20 event. Presentations will be displayed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on that day. Presentation will be set up between 8:30 and 9 a.m. on the day of the event.

Abstracts must be limited to 200 words and must include information on art form (poster, painting, performance, etc.). The deadline for submissions is Feb. 24. Download the abstract submission form or email onewater@yorku.ca for more information.

Dahdaleh Institute Seminar Series presents four events in January, February

global health

The Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research at York University continues its 2022-23 Seminar Series with four events planned for January and February.

All talks will be delivered in hybrid format. Everyone is welcome. Attendees will join global health leaders, researchers, practitioners and students and during the series, and will have an opportunity to learn about the important collaborative and transdisciplinary research happening at the Dahdaleh Institute (in the thematic research areas of Planetary Health, Global Health & Humanitarianism, and Global Health Foresighting).

The schedule of events and full details are available online.

Wednesday, Jan. 25, 1 to 2 p.m.
How to Influence Public Policy … What Happens When You Leave the Room? with Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Public policy is about making the world better. However, this only happens when policymakers consider all relevant points of view.

After defining some key terms, the discussion will focus on how scientists and other technical experts should engage government for maximal positive impact. Drawing from his varied policy experiences in both Canada and Haiti, Jean-Jacques Rousseau will provide tips on how to advocate for policy change. The key takeaway is that, while science is necessary, it is not sufficient in making a positive impact in the policy realm. This is true even in areas like pandemic preparedness where science is predominant.

Rousseau is a philosopher of science, innovation policy expert, and serial entrepreneur. He is passionate about innovation for impact and committed to unlocking the value of AI for positive change.

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 1 to 2 p.m.
Global Environmental Changes, Resource Insecurity and Health Outcomes, with Godfred Boateng

Global environmental changes have become critical determinants of health affecting the most vulnerable populations in poor resource settings. These environmental changes produce effects such as resource insecurity, greater poverty and deprivation, the spread of new and recurring infectious diseases, and poor health outcomes, which create an existential humanitarian crisis requiring an anticipatory approach instead of a reactionary one.

In this presentation, Godfred Boateng – assistant professor at the School of Global Health, director of the Global and Environmental Health Lab, and a Faculty Fellow at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research at York University – will highlight some of the key components of his research program in Global Health and Humanitarianism.

Drawing from quantitative data collected from Kenya, Ghana, and Malawi, Godfred will show the prevalence and deleterious consequences of resource insecurity among households in informal settlements. Through this presentation, he will show the significance of being able to measure and quantify the different forms of resource insecurity, the different pathways by which components such as food, water, energy, and housing insecurity can enhance our understanding of vulnerabilities faced by underserved populations, and the relationship of his research outcomes to several of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 1 to 2 p.m.
Methodologies for Co-Designing Community Responses in Sierra Leone, with Megan Corbett-Thompson, Jessica Farber, and Osman Sow

In this presentation, Megan Corbett-Thompson, a CommunityFirst Fellow co-sponsored by the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research and the SeeChange Initiative, will reflect on the importance of applying participatory methodologies that enable the effective involvement of community members to respond to the health challenges identified by communities. Together with Jessica Farber of See Change and Osman Sow, a paediatric and neonatal clinical officer, Corbett-Thompson will examine the context of building effective solutions to humanitarian health crises in Sierra Leone.

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 1 to 2 p.m.
The Orthodox Legal and Policy Framework Governing the Harm of Displacement and NATO’s Policy for the Protection of Civilians 2016, with Sarah Khan

In 2022, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimated that 59.1 million persons remain internally displaced (53.2 million due to conflict), and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that 27.1 million are displaced across international borders as refugees. The highest figure of displacement on record since record keeping began. 

This research examines the existing orthodox International Legal and Policy Framework regulating the harm of displacement in contemporary crisis situations. It queries whether the “harm of displacement,” as envisaged in this orthodox framework sufficiently captures the scale, gravity, and multi-faceted nature of this harm. The research hypothesizes that the failure to specifically reference the “harm of displacement” in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s landmark Policy for the Protection of Civilians 2016 is emblematic of the limitations of this orthodox International Legal and Policy framework.

In this seminar, Sarah Khan, a master of law (LLM) research student at Osgoode Hall Law School and Dahdaleh Global Health graduate scholar, will present her year-long research for the LLM Research Program at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Register here to attend these events.

York’s peer-reviewed undergraduate research journal issues new volume

writing in notebook

York University’s interdisciplinary and peer-reviewed undergraduate research journal Revue YOUR Review (RYR) has published its ninth volume as part of its collaborative mission to promote experiential learning and open-access publishing.

Sponsored by York University Libraries in support of undergraduate research and in collaboration with the annual Undergraduate Research Fair and Art Walk, the journal’s focus is to provide faculty and librarian mentorship for undergraduate researchers and to guide them through the process of publishing in a peer-reviewed arena.

RYR gives voice to authors from traditionally underrepresented segments of the University community and highlights their innovative research.

Cover of Revue YOUR Review Volume 9
Cover of Revue YOUR Review Volume 9

In this volume, Dara Dillon provides a thought-provoking critique of Liberalism and its systemic failure to confront anti-Black racism, while discrimination and a history of pathologization of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities are the topics of articles by Jacob McGuire and the team of Ryan Yacknovets and Meaghan Landry, respectively. Ayeda Khan confronts the colonial legacy of Western medicine in India, while both Jacqueline Saunders’ and Hannah Santilli’s contributions analyze social inequities for people with disabilities. A collaborative effort from Alexandra Markwell, Danika Wagner, Andreja Stajduhar and Lucas Norton on the psychology of extroversion, competitiveness and humour rounds out the volume.

The volume’s editorial draws on a conversation between one of the journal’s co-editors, Kevin Reynolds, and the artist of the image borne on the cover of RYR’s Volume 8, Natalia Bonczek, reflecting on the possibility of nonbinary language in French. Volume 8’s cover artwork “Misster E” is a portrait of the homonymous alter ego of the artist, a nonbinary “gender-bending, glamorous drag king.” The conversation works through the challenges presented by the translation of the artist statement that describes the cover artwork. French is characterized by grammatical gender as a structural feature that not only challenges expressions of gender ambiguity, but that is entirely rooted in gender binarity. How does one reconcile a binary gender-based language with nonbinary, “gender-bending” identities? As a result, in the artist’s statement for Volume 8, unconventional orthographic means are used to assert the nonbinary identity of the artist in French. The dialogue that ultimately led to these complex decisions of translation is the subject of the co-authored editorial of Volume 9.

In addition to Volumes 8 (2021) and 9 (2022), the journal has released, retroactively, two previously unpublished editions from 2018. The combined issues in Volumes 4/5 and 6/7 are available on the journal’s website.

Cover of Revue YOUR Review Volume 6/7
Cover of Revue YOUR Review Volume 6/7
Cover of Revue YOUR Review Volume 4/5
Cover of Revue YOUR Review Volume 4/5

In his introductory editorial to Volume 6/7, “Stepping into Tomorrow,” Professor Emeritus Paul Delaney (Physics & Astronomy) writes to “citizens of the future” about the importance of scientific literacy and the courage it takes young scholars to go through peer review. The cover image for each of these volumes is the work of Cree-Métis artist and York alumna Marissa Magneson, who also contributed the editorial for Volume 4/5. In the editorial, Magneson reflects on her photograph “Frozen Chains of Childhood” and the brutal legacy of residential schools in Canada: “Like the swing in the cover photograph, many Indigenous children felt isolated, frozen, neglected, and immobile at these schools.”

Volume 6/7’s cover image, “Reflections,” symbolizes the coming-together of two cousins, Magneson and wood carver and Nuu-chah-nulth language activist Joshua Prescott, whose artistic collaboration reflects a gradual reclamation of their Indigenous culture and identity.

“While Frozen Chains of Childhood looks to a past where Indigenous peoples were not allowed to express their culture(s), Reflections looks to the future, as we carve a path forward where future generations know what it means to be Indigenous and are proud to share who they are,” says Magneson.

All volumes are available online.

York University maps courses that teach about Sustainable Development Goals

Image shows a hand holding a pine cone against a lush backdrop of greenery

York University is internationally recognized for its contributions to addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) through teaching, research, stewardship, and partnerships. York’s annual SDG report is a snapshot of some of the work the University is doing in collaboration with Canadian and international partners to advance the Global Goals.

“The University is making determined and substantial strides towards the goals, through the power of higher education,” says York University’s Provost and VP Academic Lisa Philipps.  

As the world rapidly approaches 2030, youth have been mobilizing to compel global leaders to take urgent action on the SDGs. “As a global SDG leader, York University and its students are already playing an integral role in this movement,” adds Philipps.

To continuously improve the support offered to students and graduates who are tackling these challenges, York University has embarked on a process of understanding how its courses address or are linked to the SDGs. This initiative maps York courses with one or more of the SDGs, as appropriate, and the University is making this information available to the community on its SDG website.

The goal is to better inform students about learning opportunities related to the SDGs, to understand York’s strengths and curricular assets across the disciplines, and to increase awareness and deepen SDG-related conversations at the University and beyond.

Teaching the SDGs: the number of York courses related to each Global Goal

The above graphic shows the number of courses that relate to each of the United Nations 17 SDGs

Lessons learned from mapping courses

In consultation with OSDG, an open access tool developed by the United Nations Development Program’s SDG AI Lab and the EU-based thinktank PPMI, York analysts were able to undertake this process. They looked at both undergraduate and graduate courses offered in both English or French across all Faculties and all courses offered at the time of this analysis.

This approach looked at the use of more than 20,000 keywords and with the help of machine learning identified courses that are related to one or more of the SDGs through course titles and official descriptions. The University learned about the OSDG tool from University College London.

York University is the OSDG’s first official North American partner, as the organization works with a range of global partners such as the University of Hong Kong. York analysts consulted other universities in Ontario, British Columbia, California, England and New Zealand, organizations like York that are recognized for their global leadership on SDGs. Those consultations focused on learning about best practices for mapping and sharing SDG-relevant courses with their respective communities.

In total, analysts identified 1,635 courses (38 per cent of all courses), that are related to at least one SDG. Mapping for SDG 17 is still in development. All Faculties were represented among the mapped courses and the above table shows the number of courses that were identified as being related to each SDG.

The OSDG’s machine learning-enabled course mapping functionality flagged SDG-related courses when they specifically referenced the SDGs in the curriculum or where the curriculum empowered students to independently tackle an SDG theme within or outside of the classroom.

Many courses also mapped to more than one SDG – in fact, 285 courses were simultaneously mapped to two SDGs and 43 courses mapped to three SDGs. The process of mapping courses to the SDGs is iterative and analysts recognize that it is reliant upon the use of specific keywords and phrases found in current courses descriptions. As course descriptions continue to evolve, the analysis will be updated.

This approach will continue to improve over time, as new keywords are contributed to the OSDG’s bank. The full list of mapped courses will be published by Spring 2023 on York’s SDG website for the benefit of prospective and current students. The University will invite feedback in the lead up to publishing these courses and will continue to welcome ongoing feedback thereafter to ensure the mapped list of courses are kept up to date, and remain helpful for the York community.

The current analysis will serve as a starting point to improve the process of capturing SDG-related courses and advancing SDG education, and research on the SDGs, as outlined in the University Academic Plan.

Feedback from former Provostial Fellow and Professor Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, associate dean, academic; the Sustainability Office; the UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education Towards Sustainability; and the Vice-Provost Students team has also been invaluable during this initial mapping endeavor. This Provostial initiative was supported by the Associate Vice-President Teaching & Learning, the University Registrar, the Office of Institutional Planning and Analysis and York International.

York University funds $4.05M to support interdisciplinary research for the UN SDGs

Featured image for stories related to sustainability

The research projects advance knowledge in areas ranging from water remediation, management of infectious disease through technological innovation, the effects of climate change on ecosystems and human populations, visual neuroscience, and understanding the pathway from colonial genocide to building just relationships.

York University will fund ground-breaking research through the Catalyzing Interdisciplinary Research Clusters (CIRC) program, which aims to foster interdisciplinary collaboration, global research excellence and world-class training opportunities.  Now in its second year, the program supports critical research that can advance York’s contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

“As the world continues to address urgent global challenges such as climate change, global health crises and political polarization, and their impact on people and the planet, it is critical now more than ever for York to support novel interdisciplinary research collaborations that drive innovative solutions to these grand challenges,” says York President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. “York University is home to some of the brightest researchers in the world, and I am inspired by the talent, drive, and commitment of our researchers to making the world a better place. I offer you my congratulations in these exemplary research endeavours.”

“York is pleased to invest in interdisciplinary research clusters that will continue to amplify York’s world class research excellence,” says Vice-President Research & Innovation (VPRI) Amir Asif. “The CIRC program brings together talented researchers from across disciplines and faculties, supporting research that will help address complex global issues identified in the UN SDGs, and driving positive change in our local and global communities.”

Seven projects will receive $150,000 per year over three years:

Catalyzing Interdisciplinary Research Cluster for Detection and Remediation of Water Contaminants (CIRC-DRWC), led by Satinder Brar, Lassonde School of Engineering, with co-Principal Investigators (PIs) Pouya Rezai, Lassonde School of Engineering, James Orbinski, Faculty of Health, Sylvie Morin, Faculty of Science, and Ali Asgary, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS)
UN SDG 6: Clean Water & Sanitation

Catalyzing Collective Action at the Intersection of Global Health and the Arts, led by Caitlin Fisher, School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design (AMPD) with co-PI Steven Hoffman Faculty of Health, and Sharon Hayashi (AMPD)
UN SDG 3: Good Health & Well-Being

From Colonial Genocide to Just Relationships, led by Luann Good Gingrich (LA&PS) with co-PI Heidi Matthews, Osgoode Hall Law School
UN SDG 16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions

Technologies for Identification and Control of Infectious Diseases (TICID), led by Sergey Krylov, Faculty of Science
UN SDG 3: Good Health & Well-Being

Geomatics for Analyzing Climate Change Effects on Ecosystems and Human Populations, led by Tarmo Remmel, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change (EUC)
UN SDG 13: Climate Action

Translating Brain Signals Across Scales, Species, Sex and Lifespan, led by Jeff Schall, Faculty of Science with co-PI Shayna Rosenbaum, Faculty of Health
UN SDG 3: Good Health & Well-Being

Designing Sound Futures: Inclusive Design and Transdisciplinary STEAM Learning, led by Kurt Thumlert, Faculty of Education with Co-PI Andreas Kitzmann (LA&PS)
UN SDG 10: Reduced Inequality

In addition, six other proposals that were highly ranked by external reviewers will each be awarded two-year funding of $100,000 per year for two years for a total of $200,000 each. These proposals include:

Biomedical Engineering Cluster (BEC), led by Alex Czekanski, Lassonde School of Engineering with co-PI Peter Backx, Faculty of Science
UN SDG 3: Good Health & Well-Being

Towards Inclusive and Accessible Data Visualizations and Analytics, led by Enamul Prince (LA&PS)
UN SDG 10: Reduced Inequality

Overcoming Epidemics: Transnational Black Communities’ Response, Recovery and Resilience, led by Mohamed Sesay (LA&PS) with co-PIs Sylvia Bawa (LA&PS) and Oghenowede Eyawo, Faculty of Health
UN SDG 3: Good Health & Well-Being

Research Cluster on Data Economy, aligned with UN SDG: Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure, led by Xiaohui Yu (LA&PS) with co-PIs Giuseppina D’Agostino, Osgoode Hall Law School, and Jennifer Pybus (LA&PS)
UN SDG 9: Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure

*Social and Business Implications of Introducing Micro-mobility Vehicles (at York) Implications for Disruptive Technologies and Experiential Education, led by Andrew Maxwell, Lassonde School of Engineering with co-PIs Marina Freire-Gormaly, Lassonde School of Engineering, Pilar F Carbonell (LA&PS), Manos Papangelis, Lassonde School of Engineering and Jose Etcheverry, (EUC)
UN SDG 10: Reduced Inequality

*Towards Sustainable Extraction in the North, aligned with UN SDG: Responsible Consumption and Production, led by Laura McKinnon, Glendon College with co-PIs Kamelia Atefi-Monfared, Lassonde School of Engineering, Gabrielle Slowey (LA&PS), Zachary Spicer, (LA&PS)
UN SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

*Conditionally approved, subject to additional review.

“We would like to acknowledge the members of the internal Adjudication Committee: Professors Rosemary CoombeDavid HoodJane Heffernan and Dan Zhang, who have helped the Office of the VPRI support research excellence in ways that are equitable, diverse and inclusive,” adds Asif.

More about the Catalyzing Interdisciplinary Research Clusters Program

The Catalyzing Interdisciplinary Research Clusters (CIRC) program funds research excellence for interdisciplinary projects, crossing the mandates of at least two of the three federal granting councils, with the core team of at least five researchers for each project including members from at least two faculties and at least one early career researcher.

Modelled to replicate the success of interdisciplinary research clusters, the initiative empowers clusters to achieve research excellence and secure large-scale funding through highly competitive national programs, such as the Canada Excellence Research Chair, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund and the New Frontiers in Research Fund – Transformation stream. The CIRC program will scale the development of research teams and clusters to position the University as a key node in national and international networks in strategic areas of interest, while enabling impactful contributions towards the University’s Strategic Research Plan, the University Academic Plan and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

All proposals received were subjected to expert external peer review, with final decisions informed by an internal adjudication committee comprised of senior York researchers with additional representatives from the Office of the VPRI.

Faculty of Graduate Studies names Sapna Sharma recipient of Postdoctoral Supervisor Award

Award stock image banner from pexels

Faculty of Science Associate Professor in the Department of Biology, Sapna Sharma, received the 2022 Supervisor of the Year award from the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) at a council ceremony on Dec. 1.

Sapna Sharma
Sapna Sharma

FGS bestows the award annually on an individual who has demonstrated outstanding support for postdoctoral scholars at York University, exceeding general supervisory expectations. Nominations must provide evidence that the nominee: fosters an exemplary environment of support for professional skill development; is a role model for intellectual leadership and professionalism in research; promotes and models a climate of respect and collegiality; and offers advocacy and guidance in long-term personal, professional and career development.

The adjudication committee reviewed an exceptional pool of nominees this year and were particularly impressed by Sharma’s work as a supervisor. The letter of nomination highlighted her drive to create an environment of support for her postdoctoral Fellows and students. Acting as a true mentor, she provides ample opportunities for professional skill development and exemplifies a steadfast commitment to facilitating international collaborations.

Sharma consistently went above and beyond her expected role, supporting the members of her lab, Sharma Lakes, by advocating for their personal, as well as professional, career development. This dedication was especially crucial within the context of the global pandemic and its impact on mental, financial and overall well-being.

“The past two years have been an unprecedented time with the COVID-19 pandemic and York University frequently closing. In response, Dr. Sharma has prioritized the mental health of everyone under her supervision, including myself,” her colleague, Alessandro Filazzola, stated in the nomination letter. “She frequently checks in to ensure we are financially stable, whether we require leave, or have the necessary support should we decide to continue working.”

Postdoctoral Supervisor of the Year awarded to Sapna Sharma by FGS council
FGS council names Sapna Sharma (top right) Postdoctoral Supervisor of the Year

On the challenges of research during the pandemic, Sharma said, “The students and postdocs in my lab worked incredibly hard to keep our research moving forward, despite the immense challenges of working remotely during the pandemic. I thank them for their work, supporting one another and the research program, and keeping the lab environment alive.”

Sharma’s area of research examines how lakes worldwide respond to climate change, including rapid ice loss, warming water temperatures, degrading water quality and changing fish distributions. The work performed in her lab involves predicting the effects of environmental stressors, such as invasive species and habitat alteration, on lakes. This important research highlights the real-life repercussions of climate change, which can inspire others to seek out ways to create a more sustainable future.

“I am lucky to have a wonderful lab. I work with amazing students and postdocs. They make my work life fun and intellectually stimulating as I learn a lot from them,” said Sharma.

Outside of her research and role as supervisor, Sharma is an active member of the community. She currently holds the position of vice-Chair of the Royal Canadian Institute for Science, a charity committed to science public engagement, which demonstrates her dedication to science communication. Moreover, she is also the founder and Chair of SEEDS at York University, an outreach program that provides refugee children who have recently arrived in Canada with additional educational opportunities in science and math.

“As a Provostial Fellow, Dr. Sharma has been working on a University-wide engagement strategy to build partnerships that focus on access to clean water, and in that sense is really taking hold of York’s commitment in the University Academic Plan to further the UN [United Nations] Sustainable Development Goals,” said Dean and Associate Vice President Graduate Thomas Loebel.

The Supervisor of the Year Award acts as a way to acknowledge dedication displayed by faculty who exemplify all the characteristics of an outstanding role model. “[Sharma] has enriched the lives of her postdoctoral Fellows. Her investment and commitment serve as a model for others to follow.  She embodies the award’s dedication to mentorship creativity, excellence, and dedication,” said Loebel.

Workshop series brings SDGs to forefront of teaching and learning

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A series of one-hour workshops at York University will launch in the new year and share ways in which educators can infuse the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SGDs) into teaching and learning.

Co-developed by York’s Teaching Commons and SDGs-in-the-Classroom Curricular Innovation Hub, The Sustainable Development Goals in Teaching and Learning series launches Jan. 25, 2023 and presents five online workshops.

UN SDG wheel with the 17 SDGs

The series explores how educators might speak to the SDGs through curriculum, teaching practices, course design and assessments. The outcomes are developed to raise awareness of the importance of sustainable development and prepare students with the knowledge, skills and attributes to tackle the world’s greatest challenges.

The workshops, which run from 10 to 11 a.m., are:

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)-in-the-Classroom Curricular Innovation Hub is part of the SDG Teach In, a campaign to put the SDGs at the centre of all stages of education, and across all disciplines. The SDG Teach In, hosted by Students Organizing for Sustainability United Kingdom (SOS-UK), is a student-led education charity focusing on sustainability with a belief that change is urgently needed to tackle the injustices and unsustainability in our world.

The 2023 campaign will run from March 1 to 31, 2023, and encourages educators to pledge to include the SDGs within their teaching, learning and assessment during the campaign and beyond. Educators can pledge to take part now via the SDG Teach in pledge form