Congratulations Class of 2020: graduation message from Department Chair Alidad Amirfazli

This academic year’s ending was unique in many ways due to the pandemic… it was surprising, hard, and special as it made us think of new ways of doing things….. As I reflect, I find that this is the life in front of you…. sometimes hard… sometimes surprising, but if you focus on what possibilities it can bring to you… your life will be full of positive promises and enjoyable as you will always find new ways of pushing ahead and making the best of your situation for yourself, your communities and humanity in general.

Go out there and make the world a better place as I am sure you will!

With best wishes for all of you the Class of 2020 Mechanical Engineering at Lassonde,

—Alidad Amirfazli, PhD, PEng
Chair, Department of Mechanical Engineering,

Professor Roger Kempers awarded an NSERC Alliance grant

Professor Roger Kempers was awarded an NSERC Alliance grant entitled “Characterization and Optimization of Heat Transfer from GRIP Metal Enhanced Surfaces”. The project is in partnership with NUCAP Industries and is valued at $60k.

Project Summary:
NUCAP Industries has developed a novel method of enhancing the surface of metals in the form of small metal hooks (GRIP Metal). They have recognized the potential this surface structure holds for the enhancement of heat transfer; however, they do not have a complete understanding of how GRIP Metal design factors affect convective heat transfer performance.

Roger Kempers – photo from younger years at McMaster University

This proposal directly addresses NUCAP’s need to develop the knowledge, models and design tools to allow them to design and optimize GRIP Metal surfaces for a wide range of heat exchange applications by developing comprehensive models to quantify heat transfer for a wide range of flowrates and fluids for a range of GRIP Metal designs.

This will be accomplished through a series of experimental heat transfer measurements in conjunction with the development of numerical models and semi-empirical correlations which together will serve as design tools and help optimize GRIP Metal fabrication parameters for a given heat exchange design goal.

The results will allow them to leverage their fabrication process to enable the development of new high-performance heat exchangers for a wide range of industrial applications.

This launch of a novel and effective heat exchanger product line will allow NUCAP to position themselves in the innovative area of low-cost waste heat recovery or efficient space heating. This project will contribute to the local economy by creating more jobs at NUCAP’s manufacturing facility in Toronto. It will also facilitate the development of a novel heat exchange technology which will result in system efficiencies, less waste, and greater savings for Canadian industries.

CONGRATULATIONS! The Mechanical Engineering Capstone team wins the PEO York Chapter award for the stem cell dispenser project

Spenser The Stem Cell Dispenser

Team Instructor: Professor Hossam Sadek
Team Supervisor/Advisor: Professor Terry Sachlos
Team: Sara Kashanchi, Gianpaolo Lenard, Sherif Ibrahim, Mubariz Nagi, Sultan Humidan, Daniel Colvin.

🔗Project description: Drug and cell screening-based experiments rely heavily on the culturing techniques carried out within a laboratory. As such, liquid handling is crucial in the procedures adopted to test different drug delivery methods, to aid in determining which biological controls and parameters lead to optimize cell survival rate and/or simply observing cells in vitro outside of their natural environment. In times of urgent medical crisis, a portable, low-cost and easy to use liquid handler would be a suitable solution for high throughput drug and cell screening. Currently, the world is experiencing an unfortunate pandemic due to a pneumonia virus outbreak. With increasing COVID-19 cases in many countries, medical resources are being exhausted at a high rate. Spenser can be potentially deployed in medical centers such as hospitals, clinics and research laboratories as an additional tool in fast tracking drug screening of potential COVID-19 treatments.

Start-up focused on supporting Indigenous artisans wins pitch competition & coveted spot in BESTLab

In early April, five groups of students from the Lassonde School of Engineering, Schulich School of Business and the Faculty of Health at York University pitched their business ideas as part of the BEST Certificate’s Entrepreneurship and Technology Ventures course (ENTR 4500). The groups were SleepPODzzz, Team Outfyts, Team PestTech, Team Cannabliss Spa and Team Heritude.

Each group presented their diverse ideas to a panel of judges who later had a hard time picking a winner as all teams made great cases for their proposals.

In the end, team Heritude, which included Sebastian Shanthirajah, Utkarsh Pandy, Lyssete Bueno Murga, Tran Phuong and Emma Zacharias came out on top, winning $500 and spot in the BEST Lab to work with Dr. Andrew Maxwell to turn their idea into a viable start-up.

👉Read full story here

👏Professor Hossam Sadek was recently awarded Tenure and Promotion to Associate Professor


Professor Hossam Sadek was recently awarded Tenure and Promotion to Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, effective July 1, 2020.

Your commitment to the Department and engagement in enhancing the student learning experience have not gone unnoticed.

We are glad to have you on our team!

Biology meets engineering in York’s stem cell research program

LEUKEMIA, MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries – these are very different ailments with one thing in common: all can potentially be treated with therapies rooted in stem cells. Known since the 1960s, when they were discovered by Canadian researchers Ernest McCulloch and James Till, stem cells have incredible potential value for regenerative medicine.

Research such as that being carried out at the Stem Cell Engineering Lab at York University finds that stem cells can develop into many different types of cells within the body, with a multitude of possible functions. No other cell in the human body is so malleable. But a major obstacle is that stem cells, once removed from a donor’s body, typically only stay alive for a couple of days.

“If we try to keep them alive in a dish, they die,” explains Eleftherios (Terry) Sachlos, York’s Stem Cell Engineering Lab director and principal investigator. With a PhD in tissue engineering and 3D printing from the University of Oxford, Sachlos continued his work with stem cells during his postdoctoral research at Harvard, MIT and McMaster. He joined York in 2014.

One of his main goals in this capacity is to figure out what conditions are needed to make stem cells survive for longer periods. Demand for stem cells always outstrips supply, so being able to grow them in the lab could have tremendous payoff. “We’re asking,” Sachlos says, “how can we keep these blood stem cells alive in a dish, so that we can grow more of them?”

Terry Sachlos: Investigating stem cell therapies to improve quality of life

For Sachlos, a cell’s environment is the key: conditions in a plastic dish are nothing like those within the human body, so the first step is to be able to move beyond the petri dish to a more realistic environment. Ideally, that environment would closely resemble and mimic that of real bone marrow.

“By engineering the bone marrow, we’re creating a ‘house’ for these stem cells. We’re creating these micro-environments, so that when the cells get removed from the body, it’s not too much of a shock for them.”

The challenge of keeping stem cells alive combines basic biology with techniques drawn from engineering – which makes it perfectly suited to Sachlos’s combination of talents. “We’re using engineering principles to try to control and manipulate the cells,” he says. That includes building a 3D matrix, a sponge-like structure in which cells can live and thrive as they would in human bone marrow.

The move to a 3D environment is crucial, says Farrah Sawh, a graduate student working in York’s Stem Cell Engineering Lab. “Traditionally, cell cultures have been created in a flat, 2D plastic dish,” she says. “But we’re not 2D organisms; we’re 3D.”

The next step is to duplicate the body’s building materials – calcium, collagen, elastin and the various proteins that hold it all together. In the lab located in York’s Life Sciences Building, Sawh tries out different combinations of those key ingredients, honing in on those that produce the best results.

“If you get even half of the cells still living after five days,” she says, “then you’re doing something right.”

It’s clear that there’s a growing demand for stem cells across North America. According to a recent report, the stem cell market is increasing by some 9.5 per cent annually. “Stem cells have the potential to transform the treatment of several chronic and incurable diseases,” says Sandra Donaldson, vice-president of the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

We’re mindful that the work that we’re doing is applied research. We want to see the benefits trickle down to patients.…

“Innovative stem cell therapies have the potential to improve the quality of life of affected patients and families,” and can also generate considerable economic benefits as the technologies become commercialized, she says. At the Stem Cell Engineering Lab, which opened last year, research is front and centre – but with an eye on commercialization. Sachlos has been working with several industry partners and has been involved with the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology program at York, which supports tech-based start-ups.

“We’re mindful that the work that we’re doing is applied research,” says Sachlos. “We want to see the benefits trickle down to patients, and the best way you can do that is through a commercialization route.”

Bone marrow transplants have been used to treat leukemia since the late 1950s; so far, more than one million transplants have been carried out, with some 50,000 people receiving a bone marrow graft every year worldwide.

But bone marrow transplants also offer hope for the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Sachlos says.

Unfortunately, bone marrow transplants remain dangerous; the mortality rate is about 10 per cent. In the case of leukemia, because the disease is so deadly, patients often decide to have the transplant despite the risks.

Because MS is less deadly, patients sometimes choose to forgo the transplant and live with the disease and its consequences. But if those transplants could be made safer, it would be a big step forward, Sachlos says, and having more stem cells available could do just that.

“What if we could get that 10 per cent down to 0.1 per cent? What if we could make it safer?” That can potentially be achieved just by having more stem cells available. “The more stem cells you inject, the safer it becomes.”  ■

Link to article on York University Magazine [Fall 2019 issue]

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.