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Four to be honoured with teaching awards at Spring Convocation

Four exceptional faculty members will be presented with teaching awards during York University’s Spring Convocation ceremonies.

The recipients have demonstrated exceptional and innovative teaching methods will be honoured with the annual President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards.

Award recipients Sabina Mirza, Andrea Davis, Alex Czekanski and Véronique Tomaszewski were selected by the Senate Committee on Awards for their significant contribution to enhancing the quality of learning for York students.

“These recipients exemplify the qualities of teaching excellence and innovation that have established York as a leader in 21st-century postsecondary education,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “On behalf of the University, I congratulate them on this achievement, and thank them for their commitment to enhancing student learning at York.”

Each award winner will receive $3,000 and will have their names engraved on the President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards plaque in Vari Hall.

Sabina Mirza

Sabina Mirza, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education who is a teaching assistant in the Sociology Program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, will receive the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the Teaching Assistant category.

Nominated by students in the Interdisciplinary Approaches to Social Inquiry (SOSC 2000) and Families and Social Change (SOCI 3660) courses, Mirza is described as being a caring, meticulously organized and devoutly diligent instructor. The classroom environment created by Mirza is said to be a warm and welcoming environment where learning is exchanged rather than dictated and where equity and respect are practiced.

“Sabina is not just consistently well prepared; she is attentive to issues of emotional safety in the classroom – so much so, that event the quietest students who were initially too shy to speak mentioned how excited they were, come end of term, to engage in tutorial sessions,” writes one of her nominators.

Andrea Davis

Professor Andrea Davis is chair of the Department of Humanities in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. Davis is the recipient of the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the Full-Time Senior Faculty category.

She is also the 2012 recipient of the Ian Greene Award for teaching excellence and former interim director of the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC). Her nominators describe her as a gifted and dedicated educator who commands great respect and admiration. “Dr. Andrea Davis is the epitome of an educator who works for the sake of teaching, and not vice versa. Her definition of teaching, one that consists of humility, passion, and altruism, becomes instantly transparent to all students for whom she serves as an educator, mentor, and model of black female professionalism,” writes one nominator.

“Professor Davis has contributed significantly to developing an innovative curriculum at York. She has mounted new courses in Black Literature and Black Women’s Writing that respond to York’s diverse student body, and is currently developing a new Certificate Program in Black Canadian Studies,” writes another colleague. “As a participant on teaching committees, coordinator of an interdisciplinary program, director of a research centre and graduate diploma program and, currently, chair of humanities, she has worked for collegial consensus and led new curriculum implementation initiatives.”

Alex Czekanski

Lassonde School of Engineering Professor Alex Czekanski will receive the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the Full-Time Faculty category.

His nominators praise his work to build communities both inside and outside the Lassonde School of Engineering, his focus on student success and his efforts in creating innovative experiential learning opportunities. “Professor Czekanski is aware that we enter our programs with varying amounts of prior knowledge and he works to bridge the gaps. He offers things like workshops that help bring us up to the same knowledge base of our peers,” writes one of his many student nominators. “Professor Czekanski keeps class interesting is by incorporating his industrial experience with in-class guest speakers. From the field of engineering, we met practicing professionals at Hatch, Pratt and Whitney Canada. From York, we’ve met with an intellectual property manager, successful entrepreneurs, and even York University President Shoukri. The guest speakers motivated us by a discussion of the diverse paths they took to reach their current roles and what it could be like for us after graduation.”

Outside of his faculty-based activities, he builds bridges between Lassonde, other faculties and educational institutions. He was a part of the focus group working to redevelop Humber College’s Mechanical Engineering Education program. He is also very active building relationships with York’s Department of Design in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design. Through this collaboration, he created an annual Interdisciplinary Lecture Series, which brings international educational experts to Lassonde.

Véronique Tomaszewski

Véronique Tomaszewski is a contract faculty member who teaches sociology at the Glendon campus. An alumna of York University, Tomaszewski will receive the President’s University-Wide Teaching Award in the Contract and Adjunct Faculty category.

Nominated by her students, Tomaszewski is known for empowering her students to think critically, to be congruent with their deep values and she encourages them to become socially engaged. Students comment that she listens and pays close attention to their needs and encourages them to pursue their path to self-discovery and empowerment. In the classroom, she strives to mirror the real world by analyzing case studies from current events and news. She also makes an extensive use of social media. Her Moodle course sites, for example, blend with students’ reality and their increasing participation and expansion of social media.

“The impact that she has left will last long after I graduate,” writes one of her student nominators. “Véronique has exemplified the virtues and wisdom that my class would all like to embody as we enter the next stage of our identity development, and into our various postsecondary pursuits. We plan to bring the lessons of mindfulness and self-reflection that we learned during the duration of her class into our future endeavours.”

The purpose of the President’s University-Wide Teaching Awards is to provide significant recognition for excellence in teaching, to encourage its pursuit, to publicize such excellence when achieved across the University and in the wider community, and to promote informed discussion of teaching and its improvement. The awards demonstrate the value York University attaches to teaching.

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Seven of York’s graduate researchers awarded thesis prizes

Seven York graduate students celebrated the receipt of their Thesis & Dissertation Prizes with faculty colleagues and program directors at a recent luncheon honouring their research contributions.

“This is one of those great opportunities where we get to celebrate the excellent work of our students,” said Fahim Quadir, interim dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, who noted there were close to 500 completed graduate degrees last year.

The Thesis & Dissertation Prizes are distributed by the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) to celebrate exceptional master’s and PhD theses from the previous calendar year.

Master’s recipients

Karam Al Masri, film, Juha the Whale

Al Masri’s thesis is a 13-minute short film that explores the isolation a refugee mother and her young daughter face as they await the status of their claimant hearing in Toronto.

Internal examiner Wenona Giles stated of the film: “Al Masri explores relationships between gender and refugee access to Canada; the impacts of the exile experience on parenting, and on parents and their children; the trauma and loneliness of the refugee experience; and also the strength and tenacity of the human spirit.”

John Greyson, Al Masri’s supervisor and graduate program director in film, said, “This confirms what we knew when we met you. [Karam’s film] combines her twin passions for cinema and social justice.” He noted at the same time she was working towards a master’s in film she was also completing an arts MBA at Schulich.

Juha the Whale was screened to the York community in November as part of the Depth of Field series, featuring the work of MFA alumni and graduating students.

Salman Chaudhry, earth and space science, On the Characterization of Engineered Elastomers At High Strain Rates

Chaudhry’s work explores finite element modelling and material characterization of elastomers. His research is notable as it provides a useful deign for testing, for which standards currently lack in the development of elastomer components for applications.

During his master’s, he served as co-author on seven international conference publications and presentations, as well as three journal papers. The examining committee noted that his intellectual proficiency and output was at the level one might expect of a doctoral student. Chaudhry thanked his supervisor Alex Czekanski for his support and expertise during his degree.

Kathryn Hardill, nursing, That Look That Makes You Not Really Want to Be There: Health Care Experiences of People Who Use Illicit Opioids in Small Urban and Rural Communities – A Critical Social Theory Analysis

Hardill’s research examines a timely and important topic impacting our health-care system and offers valuable insight for the nursing community. Through 17 interviews with 10 opiate users and six interviews with nurses who care for these individuals, her data and analysis provides critical information to influence future health policy in this area.

Graduate Program Director Jacqueline Choiniere, attending on behalf of supervisor Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, read van Daalen-Smith’s remarks. She called Hardill “a Canadian nursing icon whose work I followed. Her research critically explored the health-care experience of marginalized persons whose voices would otherwise be dismissed.”

Hardill said, “It has been exhilarating to be able to marry two of my passions: providing nursing care to people who have been marginalized and my political world view.”

Doctoral Recipients

Melissa Dalgleish, English, Her Constellated Mind: Jay Macpherson’s Modernism and the Canadian Mythopoeic Turn

Dalgleish’s thesis looks at the first 20 years of Canadian poet Jay Machperson’s career and examines her mythopoeic modernism and its influence in post-war Canadian poetry.

Noted was her exemplary archival work in regards to fonds used for critical insight. The examining committee stated: “The diplomatic, investigative and archival work required to compile the primary materials for the study were, in a word, monumental, and have results in a an archive that will be foundational for future scholarship in the field.”

The Essential Jay Macpherson, with selections by Melissa Dalgleish, was published by The Porcupine’s Quill earlier this year.

Supervisor Lily Cho said one of the amazing things about the amount of research Dalgleish did, was that she published a book before defending.

“What’s not in the dissertation is almost as riveting as what’s in the dissertation,” said Cho. “There are another two or three books there.”

Dalgleish is currently a professional and career development specialist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Prior to this, she served as the research officer in the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and coordinated the launch of the Graduate & Postdoctoral Professional Skills program (gradstudies.yorku.ca/gpps).

Angus Gavin Grant, law, Confronting (In) Security: Forging Legitimate Approaches to Security and Exclusion in Migration Law

Grant’s work explores national security considerations in Canadian immigration law and, through interviews with migrants, makes significant contributions to the discourse between immigration and security policies.

The examining committee noted: “Mr. Grant’s fine-grained analysis of the relevant Canadian case law is manifestly infused with the minutiae of his professional background as a practising lawyer, allowing him to mesh very convincingly theoretical thoughts with practical considerations.”

Speaking on behalf of supervisor Sean Rehaag, Graduate Program Director Sonia Lawrence said, “Angus is an exceptional scholar. This dissertation is a first-rate work of law and society scholarship.” She pointed out he came to the graduate program in law after a decade of practise in the area of refugee law.

Grant said there were times he “felt slightly fraudulent. I had been in legal practice for more than a decade.” But he said he was able to draw on that experience to help him explore how the law is operating on people.

Paul Christopher Gray, political science, The Tragedy of Marx and Justice: A Critique of Marx’s Failed Attempt to Dispense with Principles of Justice

Gray’s research examines Karl Marx’s theory of justice and its deployment, and contributes to broader debates in contemporary political philosophy. Citing its foundation in philosophy, expert use of detail and its originality, the examining committee noted an outstanding contribution to the scholarship of Marx.

Supervisor David McNally said the supervisor’s job, as he sees it, “is to get out of the way when you know your are dealing with a candidate who is on fire.”

Gray was one of those candidates, he noted, and periodically, his job was to just throw a log onto the fire. His dissertation “not only said something new, he simply said, ‘Here’s an entirely different way of looking at it.’ ”

Gray commented that McNally “fed more logs for that fire than he knows.” Gray also added that most Marxist scholars have just accepted that Marx is incredibly ambiguous and vague about justice. “None of them thought to critique Marx according to a Marxist approach.”

Dennis Kolosov, biology, The Role of Tight Junction Proteins in Regulating Epithelial Permeability in Fishes

Kolosov’s research examines the composition of tight junctions in teleost fish, and consists of a number of molecular level experiments conducted at York. A better understanding of these proteins is an important contribution to a number of research areas including gene cloning and pharmacology, among others.

“I feel very lucky to have students in my lab like Dennis,” said supervisor Scott Kelly.

“It’s easy enough to do the work you’re excited about,” Kolosov said, “it’s harder to do the stuff so that it excites other people.” In addition to his thesis, Kolosov has published in 10 academic journals in the field of comparative and epithelial physiology, and is the lead or second author on two invited review articles in international journals.

Quadir said to the recipients, “The seven of you were chosen from a large number of students who are already doing wonderful work. All of you have shown excellence in research and writing.”

For more York University news, photos and videos, visit the YFile homepage

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Professor Nima Tabatabaei Develops clinical device for early detection of dental caries

Development and clinical translation of a high-resolution photothermal coherence tomography clinical device for detection and 3-D mapping of early dental caries.

Professor Nima Tabatabaei from the Department of Mechanical Engineering has received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to partner with Quantum Dental Technologies and distinguished researchers at University of Toronto, Professors Mandelis and Finer to develop a dental diagnostic imaging technology.

The proposed device is expected to reveal dental demineralization at very early stages when the lesion can still be remineralized or healed, creating a painless, cost-effective and non-invasive treatment for tooth decay instead of the conventional drilling and filling approach.

Over the next three years, $300,000 out of the $717,294 funding will support the operation of this project at Professor Tabatabaei’s Hybrid Biomedical Optics laboratory.

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Khaled Youssef received two prestigious scholarships for his doctoral studies with Professor Pouya Rezai

Khaled Youssef, a PhD student at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at York University, has recently received two prestigious scholarships to continue his doctoral research at ACµTE under the supervision of Professor Pouya Rezai. The Ontario Trillium Scholarship is a competitive provincial award for attracting top ranked international students to Ontario for their PhD studies. The Carswell Scholarship is an award from Lassonde School of Engineering to incoming PhD students who demonstrate outstanding academic achievements. Congratulations, Khaled !
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Professor Pouya Rezai Has Received Funding from NSERC and OCE to Partner with Dairy Quality Inc. for Developing a Bacterial Biosensor

Professor Pouya Rezai from the Department of Mechanical Engineering has received funding from NSERC and OCE to partner with Dairy Quality Inc on a project that aims to develop a portable  biosensor for detection of microbial pathogens in milk and dairy products. A microfluidic device for sample processing and separation of target pathogens from milk will be developed in phase I of this project. The microchip will then be integrated with an iOS-based microscopy and target detection tool in phase II. The academic and industrial team aim to bring this technology to market in 2018.
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Congratulations to Professor Dan Zhang

Prof. Dan Zhang has been elected as the Fellow of the The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is a professional association that promotes the art, science, and practice of multidisciplinary engineering and allied sciences around the globe” via “continuing education, training and professional development, codes and standards, research, conferences and publications, government relations, and other forms of outreach. ASME is an engineering society, a standards organization, a research and development organization, a lobbying organization, a provider of training and education, and a nonprofit organization. Founded as an engineering society focused on mechanical engineering in North America, ASME is today multidisciplinary and global.

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The new home of Mechanical Engineering

We have moved to the new Bergeron Center of Engineering Excellence. This recently constructed building contains state of the art facilities and equipment to facilitate the best learning and collaboration environment.