Groundbreaking York U research advanced by more than $9 million from province


Funding to advance space science, particle physics, big data, disaster management research

TORONTO, June 11, 2015 – Groundbreaking research at York University will benefit from a funding commitment of more than $9 million by the Ministry of Research and Innovation to support work by nine researchers at the institution.

York’s internationally recognized research strength in space science, engineering, particle physics, disaster response and management, big data and neuroscience is reflected in the projects to receive funding from the Ontario Research Fund (ORF) – Large Infrastructure Fund competition, the Early Researchers Awards program, The Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence program and The Ontario Research Fund – Small Infrastructure program.

“We are delighted by the Ministry of Research and Innovation’s investment in leading-edge research in the province,” said Mamdouh Shoukri, York’s president and vice-chancellor during a visit today at which the funding was announced by The Hon. Mario Sergio, minister responsible for seniors affairs, at York’s Disaster and Emergency Management Centre on the Keele campus.

“The ministry’s investment will provide York’s researchers with funding for state-of-the-art infrastructure and research funding support,” said Robert Haché, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “This is the largest number of ORF-RI large-scale infrastructure projects that York has received funding for in one competition.”

More project details included in the Backgrounder (see below).

York University is helping to shape the global thinkers and thinking that will define tomorrow. York U’s unwavering commitment to excellence reflects a rich diversity of perspectives and a strong sense of social responsibility that sets us apart. A York U degree empowers graduates to thrive in the world and achieve their life goals through a rigorous academic foundation balanced by real-world experiential education. As a globally recognized research centre, York U is fully engaged in the critical discussions that lead to innovative solutions to the most pressing local and global social challenges. York U’s 11 faculties and 25 research centres are thinking bigger, broader and more globally, partnering with 280 leading universities worldwide. York U’s community is strong − 55,000 students, 7,000 faculty and staff, and more than 275,000 alumni.


Media Contact: Joanne Rider, York University Media Relations, 416-736-5593,



The Ontario Research Fund – Large infrastructure fund recipients in space science, particle physics and disaster and emergency management projects are:

Michael Daly, York Research Chair in Planetary Science and a professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering, and the team he leads will receive more than $1.3 million in funding to build a Canadian Planetary Simulator (CAPS) facility. The project will empower innovative research on planetary surface environments – including extreme terrestrial environments. The inclusion of state-of-the-art instruments will enable multi-disciplinary investigations, new instrumentation techniques and the training of Highly Qualified Personnel in the analytical sciences.

Tom McElroy, NSERC/ABB/CSA industrial research chair in Atmospheric Remote Sounding in the Lassonde School of Engineering, and Regina Lee, chair of the Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering in the Lassonde School of Engineering and co-principal investigator on the project, and the team they lead will receive more than $1.69 million in funding to build the Suborbital Payload Research Centre. Intended to centralize Canada’s atmospheric and Earth-surface research programs, the proposed state-of-the-art research facility will rely on the demonstrated capability of the science and engineering team to design, build, characterize and operate instruments and payloads for sub-orbital missions for environmental monitoring.

Scott Menary, professor in the Faculty of Science, and his research team are collaborating in the "ALPHA-g: An apparatus to explore antimatter gravity with cold trapped antihydrogen" project. The Canadian ALPHA-g team, led by the University of Calgary, will receive $500,000 in ORF funding. ALPHA-g is a multinational collaborative experiment performed at CERN which is designed to purse the answer to the fundamental gravitational question "Does antimatter fall up or down?" making the proposed apparatus the 21st-century version of Newton's apple tree. ALPHA-g's capabilities will test the foundations of physics using cutting-edge technology. Menary's team will play a leading role in the Time Projection Chamber (TPC) and the scintillating bar cosmic ray detector (SCRD), and leads the CVD diamond antiproton beam monitor effort. These components are used for assessing how well ALPHA is doing in antihydrogen creation and trapping.

Jianhong Wu, Canada Research Chair in Industrial and Applied Mathematics and professor in the Faculty of Science, and co-principal investigators Ali Asgary, associate professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and Gunho Sohn, associate professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering, will receive $1.45 million for the Advanced Disaster Emergency, Rapid Response Simulation (ADERSIM) Program. This project reflects an interdisciplinary collaboration from the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, the Lassonde School of Engineering and the Faculty of Science. The ADERSIM research infrastructure and program team expertise will develop state-of-the-art modelling and simulation technology to evaluate and enhance disaster and emergency planning and rapid emergency response strategies by governmental, non-governmental, private and public sector companies and businesses in Ontario.

The big data project funded by The Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence Funding is:

Nick Cercone, professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering, and colleagues has been awarded more than $3.5 million in funding for Big Data Research, Analytics and Information Network (BRAIN) Alliance. The multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary, multi-sector BRAIN Alliance will create new access to resources and expertise to analyze, optimize and visualize data, creating new products and tools that leverage data effectively as an asset. BRAIN will enhance Ontario industry efforts by engaging researchers/students to solve challenging problems, otherwise overlooked due to a lack of resources.

Other leading projects to receive funding include the awarding of an Ontario Early Researcher Award to:

Jinthana Haritaworn, professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, has been awarded $100,000 in funding under the Ontario government’s Early Researcher Awards program. York University’s research investment of $40,000 will match the funds for the award. Haritaworn’s study, Taking Space, Making Space: Digital Maps by Queers of Colour in Toronto, explores collective experiences of belonging and displacement among non-heterosexual people of colour who live, work or play in the gay Village or Toronto's west end. Using digital maps, the study sheds light on alternative forms of taking space and making space that are currently emerging in queer of colour communities. The project aims to give individuals who are marginalized in dominant maps opportunities to represent their own sense of the urban environments that surround them, and to produce alternative forms of place making that have the potential to inform wider conversations about just and sustainable ways of sharing space.

Ontario Research Fund – Small Infrastructure funding recipients are:

Jennifer Chen, professor in the Faculty of Science, will receive $124,000 for her project: Infrastructure for a Nanomaterials Laboratory. Functional materials are important for technology development. The study will investigate innovative ways of assembling and organizing nanostructures with other materials (including biomolecules and polymers) for advancing biodiagnostic tools and clean energy technologies.

Seyed Moghadas, professor in the Faculty of Science, will receive $134,331 for his project: Quantitative Methods and Infrastructure for Rapid, Evidence-Based Decision-Support in Public Health.  His project will develop decision-support tools using computational infrastructure to assess the risk of impending events, provide population health indicators based on the latest available data and information, and identify optimal management strategies for informing effective health policies and responses.

Dale Stevens, professor in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health, will receive $150,000 for his project on Neurocognitive Aging: Bridging the Gap between Neuroscience and Neurointervention. The goal of the project is to enhance the cognitive health of older Ontarians. A combination of state-of-the-art brain imaging and brain stimulation techniques will be used to identify age-related brain changes and guide therapies to slow the trajectory of age-related cognitive decline.

The Ontario Research Fund – Research Infrastructure provides research institutions with funding to help support infrastructure needs, such as modern facilities and equipment. The Ontario Research Fund – Large Infrastructure fund helps cover the costs of building/renovating and equipping facilities to conduct collaborative academic research and co-funds with CFI’s Innovation Fund. The Small Infrastructure fund helps cover the costs of acquiring/renewing research equipment and co-funds with the John R. Evans Leaders Fund. The Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence Funding provides research institutions with funding to help support the operational costs of large-scale transformative research of strategic value to the province. The Early Researcher Awards program gives funding to new researchers working at publicly funded Ontario research institutions to build a research team.