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.

Schulich appoints inaugural CIBC Chair in Sustainable Finance 

Glass cup filled with coins, with a green plant sprouting out of it.

York University’s Schulich School of Business announced last week that Schulich Professor Olaf Weber has been appointed as the inaugural holder of the new CIBC Chair in Sustainable Finance.

Olaf Weber
Olaf Weber

The research Chair was established last year as the result of CIBC’s commitment to enable a more sustainable future, working in partnership with stakeholders and clients.

Weber has had a distinguished career in the field of sustainable finance, marked by cutting-edge research on the intersection of business and financial institutions’ sustainability. As the inaugural CIBC Chair in Sustainable Finance, he will pursue pioneering research that generates actionable solutions within the global finance sector.   

Recognized internationally as a thought leader in the areas of sustainability and responsible business, Schulich is home to the Centre of Excellence in Responsible Business, one of the world’s largest academic centres dedicated to sustainability research and knowledge development.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Olaf Weber as the new CIBC Chair in Sustainable Finance,” says Detlev Zwick, dean of the Schulich School of Business. “The CIBC Chair will expand our school’s expertise in sustainable finance while carrying out important new research that will help in the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

LA&PS professor’s book explores ‘datafied’ world

Many books standing upright, pictured from above.

York University Assistant Professor Natasha Tusikov, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, has co-written a book about the new “datafied” world, and how control over knowledge has become its own ideology. The New Knowledge: Information, Data and the Remaking of Global Power (Rowman & Littlefield, 2023) is a guide to and analysis of today’s knowledge-driven society.

Natasha Tusikov
Natasha Tusikov

Whether it’s social media platforms collecting their users’ personal data to sell advertising, governments engaging in surveillance in the name of national security, companies like OpenAI scouring the internet to power its generative AI chatbot, ChatGPT, or a government welfare department using data to deny access to essential services, companies and governments are scrambling for more data, and more ways to use it. Throughout it all, tech companies and data experts are being increasingly relied upon, sometimes with unfortunate results.

What are the consequences of this transformation into a knowledge-driven society? In The New Knowledge, Tusikov and co-writer Blayne Haggart, a political science professor at Brock University, argue that more data doesn’t necessarily lead to a more enlightened or just society. Instead, it has concentrated power out of the hands of individual citizens and smaller countries and into the hands of a few companies and countries, while also reshaping basic concepts of property, ownership and control. The global race to create and control data and intellectual property, they say, is leading us inexorably into a world of persistent surveillance by governments and companies.

Cover of the book "The New Knowledge: Information, Data and the Remaking of Global Power"
Cover of the book The New Knowledge: Information, Data and the Remaking of Global Power

More than an examination of the data-driven society, The New Knowledge proposes a solution – knowledge decommodification – designed to ensure that new knowledge is not treated simply as a commodity to be bought and sold, but as a way to meet the needs of the individuals and communities that create this knowledge in the first place.

“We wrote this book because we are witnessing a transformation in the global economy,” says Tusikov.

The catalyst for the book, she says, was when Google’s Sidewalk Labs company announced in 2017 that it won the bid to propose a smart-city project in Toronto. “Missing from this exciting utopian vision, however, was any concrete detail of who would own and control the intellectual property (patents, copyright and trademarks) and data emanating from the smart city.”

As scholars who study intellectual property and data governance, Tusikov and Haggart were concerned that this project was leaving the control over knowledge unaddressed – a trend that continued, she says, until the project’s cancellation in May 2020.

“We use the Sidewalk Labs smart-city project as the book’s leitmotif,” Tusikov explains. “This case illustrates how the control over knowledge…is central to the global economy. Simply put, those who control intellectual property and data flows, like Google in its search engine or the U.S. government in its surveillance programs, can exert economic and security power. We hope that this book will help explain the shifts that are occurring throughout society.”

The New Knowledge: Information, Data and the Remaking of Global Power is available for purchase and is free to download (under “features”) on the publisher’s website.

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

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.

OsgoodePD expands construction, infrastructure offerings with two new programs

A modern bridge lit up at night with a cityscape behind it

In response to a growing demand for construction-related legal education, Osgoode Professional Development (OsgoodePD) is launching a new Certificate in Public-Private Partnership (P3) Law and Practice in Canada next month, with a new Professional LLM program in Construction Law set to launch in September 2024.

For more than a decade, OsgoodePD’s popular Certificate in Construction Law has offered professionals in the industry intensive, practical education on the legal issues impacting construction. Meanwhile, elective courses in construction law have been available to Professional LLM students in Osgoode’s Energy & Infrastructure Law and Business Law programs. Andrea Lee, a co-founding program director of the new Professional LLM in Construction Law alongside Osgoode Professor and Chartered Arbitrator Janet Walker, has witnessed an increased demand for legal expertise in her construction niche, in both her private practice and her role as an OsgoodePD instructor. She says the new LLM program will help relieve some of that pressure.

“There is certainly an appetite for more construction law courses, so it’s great that Osgoode is taking things to the next level,” Lee says. While lawyers who deal regularly with construction law issues or advise industry professionals are obvious candidates for the new program, Lee says it is also likely to appeal to lawyers looking to gain insight into construction law to complement their existing practice, or even transition into this area on a full-time basis.

Chris Bennett, one of three Chairs of OsgoodePD’s new Certificate in Public-Private Partnership (P3) Law and Practice in Canada, shares a similar sentiment regarding the new certificate program. The coming-of-age process for P3 projects has proven turbulent, he says, with many private-sector players struggling to get projects done within the rigid structure and risk-transfer profile of a traditional P3 model.

While traditional P3s continue to be used, the risk is too much for many, says Bennett, leaving public owners with a dwindling number of private-sector partners willing to bid on them. As a result, he says the public sector is increasingly open to new methods for delivering large and complex infrastructure projects, with innovative models emerging to reflect the changing market conditions.

“We’re entering a very evolutionary phase of P3, where different types of partnership are available, so we’re reassessing what risk allocation looks like, and testing new models,” Bennett says, adding that this makes the timing perfect for the launch of Osgoode’s new certificate.

“It’s all about keeping Canada on the leading edge of infrastructure globally,” says Bennett.

OsgoodePD’s Certificate in Public-Private Partnership (P3) Law and Practice in Canada is an open-enrolment course, accepting registrations now. Applications for Osgoode’s LLM in Construction Law open Oct. 1. Fill out this form to receive program updates.

To view additional construction and infrastructure offerings, visit the OsgoodePD website.

EUC’s Sustainable Campus Tour shows York’s Keele Campus through a new lens

York University's Keele Campus from above

York University has long been known as a leader in sustainability, earning recognition as one of Canada’s Top 100 Greenest Employers for the past 11 years and being named among the world’s top 40 universities for advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by the 2023 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings.

For community members who are interested in learning more about how the University is leading the way in sustainable practices, York’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) is offering a new, sustainability-focused tour of the Keele Campus following a pandemic-related hiatus. Below are some of the tour’s highlights.

Native Plant Garden

On the north side of the Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies (HNES) Building, find a beautiful, multifunctional garden that serves as a treasured habitat for wild animals and pollinators alike. Curious community members who don’t mind getting their hands dirty are welcome to volunteer their time to help maintain the garden.

Sky Studio Collective’s collaborative murals

Launched last November, “For the Birds” is an art project created by EUC students and teachers. Best viewed from the outer north side of the HNES Building, this project was part of a larger initiative by professors Gail FraserTraci Warkentin and Lisa Myers, who imagined ways that different classes could connect to help address an area of deep concern: migratory bird deaths resulting from reflective windows on campus.

Students from the Community Arts for Social Change course (ENVS 2122) designed murals for the windows, which were installed by students from various Faculties. Read the full YFile story about the project.

Maloca Community Garden

The Maloca Community Garden, on the outskirts of campus, features about 2,000 square feet devoted to both individual and communal plots for growing vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers using the principles of organic agriculture. The space is intended for all members of the University community to enjoy by growing their own food, hosting outdoor events or providing a unique setting for sustainable teaching.

Workshops and volunteer opportunities are also available, and no gardening experience is necessary. For more information, visit the Maloca Community Garden website.

Regenesis York

Regenesis, an environmental community organization with chapters in many Greater Toronto Area universities, opened a unique borrowing centre on York’s Keele Campus in January 2017. The centre, located in the HNES Building, operates like a library, allowing community members to borrow items such as tools, games, camping equipment, sports equipment and more.

Sustainable buildings

York boasts many examples of forward-thinking architecture, including five green roofs, the use of photovoltaic solar panels, the collection of rainwater and five buildings recognized with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, including the LEED Gold certified Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence and Schulich School of Business Rob and Cheryl McEwen Graduate Study & Research Building.

Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence
Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence

Public transit

One of the top priorities of York’s Transportation Services department has been to continuously work to improve public transit options to York and reduce the numbers of commuters using single-occupant vehicles. York has encouraged this shift through a number of alternative transportation initiatives: shuttle bus service between campuses; three bicycle repair stations; a green fleet program that includes electric golf carts, bikes, hybrid and electric vehicles; and the recent connection of the Keele Campus to the Toronto Transit Commission’s subway system in 2017 with two state-of-the-art stations on campus.

Electric vehicle (EV) charging stations

In partnership with Natural Resource Canada and FLO, York’s Keele Campus is now equipped with 18 EV charging stations, located in many of the parking lots across campus. For more details about where to find them, visit the Parking Services website.

Green spaces

A major standout out during the EUC Sustainable Campus Tour is the abundance of beautiful green spaces available to enjoy on York’s Keele Campus. From Stong Pond and Harry W. Arthurs Common to all the charming nooks and crannies along the Campus Walk, the benefits of being located outside of Toronto’s core couldn’t be any more apparent than during a mid-summer campus stroll.

For more information about the EUC Sustainable Campus Tour or to book one for yourself or a group, contact Brittany Giglio, EUC recruitment and liaison officer, at

Faculty of Health researchers investigate road safety, health equity

boy rides a bike in a heavy rainstorm

A paper written by Emily McCullogh, a postdoctoral visitor in the Faculty of Health, and colleagues from a pan-Canadian research team examines the built environment and active transportation safety of children and youth (CHASE).

The study, “Road safety, health equity, and the build environment: perspectives of transport and injury prevention professionals in five Canadian municipalities,” was recently published in BMC Public Health Journal.

The team consists of researchers from Vancouver, Calgary, Peel Region, Toronto and Montréal, as well as principle investigator Alison Macpherson (York University), and York University alumna Sarah A. Richmond (Public Health Ontario), who were responsible for supervising the work on this paper.

The objective of the CHASE study was to enhance the understanding of barriers and facilitators to built environment change, specifically for vulnerable road users (VRUs) such as pedestrians, cyclists, children, older adults and people with disabilities. Researchers note that currently, the built environment is not designed to support the health and safety of all users, but instead is primarily designed to increase traffic flow and efficiency.

“This work has expanded my knowledge of how the built environment influences the health and wellness of people. Road users are not inherently vulnerable; rather, they are made vulnerable by the design of the built environment,” says McCullogh.

The built environment refers to the “human-made surroundings that provide the setting for all human activity, including those places where people live, work, learn, rest and play,” according to the Canadian Institute of Planners. The design of the built environment, say the researchers, influences people’s health by impacting decisions to take public transit and/or engage in active travel (e.g. walking, cycling, wheeling etc.).

Using qualitative data from professionals working in the fields of injury prevention and road safety, the paper offers insight into barriers and facilitators to equity-focused built environment changes. The team says it is a meaningful step towards removing barriers and ensuring that all community members are served and protected by the built environment as they travel to work or school, or for leisure.

“These findings make an important contribution to York’s commitment to the [United Nations] Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as they highlight important challenges to making sustainable transportation safer for all,” says Macpherson.

“Drawing on the experiences of professionals working in, and across, these sectors shows how HE (health equity) concerns and BE (built environment) change are not contained within a single sector,” the study states. “Alternatively, efforts to improve BE conditions and the health and safety of road users exist across sectors, which bolsters the need for cross-sectoral collaboration and collective efforts to ensure that HE concerns are addressed on multiple fronts.”

McCullogh says given the urgent health concerns around road-related injury and death, people’s physical health and environmental sustainability, this work is timely. Further, McCullogh adds, a result of this research is that communities and local populations should be involved in built environment change planning and processes within their neighbourhoods.

“Through this work, we better understand what helps and hinders public health practitioners in their efforts toward safe active transport in their communities; specifically, public health highlighted the importance of supporting equitable community consultation in the BE change process,” says Richmond.

Researchers and policymakers aiming to enhance people’s health by making changes to the built environment and the design of cities can learn more about the learnings from McCullogh and her colleagues’ work, particularly with regards to changing the built environment to support vulnerable and equity-deserving road users.

Click here to access the full article.

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

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.

k2i receives $400K donation from 407 ETR

Two Female Students Building Machine In Science Robotics Or Engineering Class

York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering k2i (kindergarten to industry) academy will put a $400,000 donation from the 407 ETR towards programming that will help dismantle systemic barriers for underrepresented groups in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and prepare the next generation for careers in these fields.

The donation was announced at an on-campus event at the Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence, where leadership from Lassonde and 407 ETR were on hand to speak to the importance of the initiative and what this gift would mean for the programming offered through k2i.

“We launched the k2i academy three years ago with the idea of bringing STEM learning to life,” says Jane Goodyer, dean of Lassonde. “The k2i academy is a sandbox for innovation in STEM education, building a network of collaborative partners, committed to creating systemic change in our education system. With this gift, Lassonde will continue our work to increase equity, diversity and inclusion, and create a talent pipeline in STEM through job-ready training and innovative learning models.”

K2i academy Lisa Cole
Lisa Cole

The donation will be divided equally between two programs, administered by Lisa Cole, director of the k2i academy.

The first program, the 407 ETR Path2STEM Fund, will support a micro-credentialled Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program. SHSMs allow students to gain experiences and develop skills toward their high-school diploma in Ontario while focusing on a specific economic sector. The 407 ETR Path2STEM Fund will be used to create a series of innovative SHSM experiences in engineering and digital technologies. Geared toward diverse learners, the program will prepare students for innovative post-secondary programs and meaningful STEM careers.

407 ETR President and CEO Javier Tamargo says his organization is keen to invest in a highly skilled and diverse workforce that can meet the challenges of tomorrow.

“407 ETR is a company rooted in STEM. In fact, about half of our workforce is employed in a STEM-related position ranging from data analytics and IT to traffic and tolling. These professionals are integral to our business, and so is ensuring that our team is reflective of the vibrant communities we serve,” says Tamargo. “That starts with doing our part to help foster a diverse talent pool, which is why we’re so proud to support the Lassonde School and York University’s work to move more youth into the pipeline towards rewarding academic and professional careers in STEM.”

The second program, the 407 ETR Work Integrated Learning Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Fund, will specifically be geared to help k2i expand its offerings to students underrepresented in STEM, including women, Black and Indigenous youth, and those from low-income communities. Since 2020, k2i has been offering paid summer work opportunities for students in grades 10, 11 and 12 while gaining school credit. The programming is done in partnership with the Toronto District School Board, York Region District School Board and Peel District School Board. Students receive 140 hours of paid work with an added opportunity to earn a high-school prerequisite credit for STEM pathways while learning skills in coding, design, electronics and more. This year’s on-campus program offered a unique Grade 12 English credit, rooting language and communication in hands-on science and engineering experiences.

Lassonde, 407 ETR, and k2i academy teams

Students are empowered to explore, question, wonder and discover through interactive learning experiences to strengthen skills in computational thinking, coding, electronics, engineering design, 3D modelling and creativity. Combining work and learning provides an innovative way for students to explore possibilities in STEM careers, connect with networks and mentors to launch their interests in post-secondary studies, gain experience in developing STEM skills, and strengthen professional skills in communication, collaboration and problem-solving.

“With this generous donation from 407 ETR, we will continue our journey of offering paid educational experiences to underrepresented students in environments that are dynamic, innovative and collaborative,” says Cole. “We’ve already reached 6,000-plus youth and offered more than 175,000 hours of learning, and we’re thrilled to be able to expand this work and hit our next milestones.”

407 ETR has been a supporter of the Lassonde School of Engineering and York for over a decade. In 2013, a donation was made to support the 407 ETR Learning Laboratory, home to pre-laboratory training, theory and application for a generation of civil engineering students.

Learn more at News @ York.