Three professors named to RSC’s College of New Scholars, Artists & Scientists

The Royal Society of Canada has named three York University professors as inaugural members of The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

Alidad Amirfazli

Alidad Amirfazli

Alidad Amirfazli, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering; Sarah Flicker, professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies; and Shayna Rosenbaum, professor in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health, have been named inaugural new members for a seven-year appointment.  In total, the Royal Society of Canada has named 91 members of The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. The presentation for this first cohort will take place on Friday, Nov. 21, at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City.

“On behalf of the York University community, I would like to offer our sincere congratulations to three of our faculty members, Alidad Amirfazli, Shayna Rosenbaum and Sarah Flicker, on this important recognition and achievement,” said Robert Haché, York’ University vice-president research and innovation. “These exceptional scholars have made significant contributions to research in their respective disciplines.”

The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists is Canada’s first national system of multidisciplinary recognition for the emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership.  The college is mandated “to gather scholars, artists and scientists at a highly productive stage of their careers into a single collegium where new advances in understanding will emerge from the interaction of diverse intellectual, cultural and social perspectives.”

Amirfazli’s current research pertains to surface engineering and understanding droplet surface interactions to develop platform technologies for diverse areas of applications, for example, water management in fuel cells, anti-icing systems for wind turbine/aircraft printing technology, application of pesticides and spray cooling. His extensive international collaborations include research in Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Spain. He has been the Canada Research Chair in Surface Engineering, earning the rare distinction of having twice received the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Discovery Accelerator Supplements Grant. His past distinctions include appointment as a Killam Annual Professor and Martha Cook Piper Research Prize.

Sarah Flicker

Sarah Flicker

Flicker’s research focus is in the area of community development, public health, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and adolescence. Her program of research focuses on teen HIV prevention and support. She is a Canadian leader in promoting community-based participatory research methodologies. Flicker is active on a variety of research teams that focus on adolescent sexual health with youth in Canada and South Africa.  Her past distinctions include receiving a Scholar Award from the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, the Synapse Mentorship Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Community Based Research Award of Merit from the Centre for Urban Health Initiatives.

Shayna Rosenbaum

Shayna Rosenbaum

In addition to her work at York University, Rosenbaum is an associate scientist at the Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest. Her research examines how different forms of memory are represented in the brain and how they contribute to other functions from decision making to social interaction. Combining the patient-lesion method with neuroimaging, she has made important discoveries in specifying the function of the hippocampal memory system. She has harnessed this knowledge to develop strategies to help healthy adult and clinical populations overcome memory loss and optimize learning in the workplace. Her research has been recognized by a CIHR New Investigator Award, Sloan Fellowship (USA), and early career awards, most recently from the Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN) and the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, and Cognitive Science (CSBBCS).

For more information, visit the Royal Society of Canada website.

York U neuroscientists decode brain maps to discover how we take aim

Serena Williams won her third consecutive US Open tennis title a few days ago, thanks to obvious reasons like physical strength and endurance. But how much did her brain and its egocentric and allocentric functions help the American tennis star retain the cup?

Quite significantly, say York University neuroscience researchers. Their recent study shows that different regions of the brain help to visually locate objects relative to one’s own body (self-centred or egocentric) and those relative to external visual landmarks (world-centred or allocentric).

A subject completes testing in York's fMRI

A subject completes testing in York’s fMRI

“The current study shows how the brain encodes allocentric and egocentric space in different ways during activities that involve manual aiming,” explains Distinguished Research Professor Doug Crawford of the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health. “Take tennis for example. Allocentric brain areas could help aim the ball toward the opponent’s weak side of play, whereas the egocentric areas would make sure your muscles return the serve in the right direction.”

The study finding will help health-care providers to develop therapeutic treatments for patients with brain damage in these two areas, according to the neuroscientists at York’s Centre for Vision Research.

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Back to School: Looking beyond the 3 R’s

Research shows knowing how to handle stress can lead to better health and even academic achievement, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 1. “Stress levels are way too high among children across Canada and it’s a very worrying trend, but there’s all sorts of research on concrete strategies for kids to learn self-regulation and managing their emotions,” said York University psychology and philosophy Professor Stuart Shanker. “It’s no longer all about the 3 R’s – we now focus on the 5 R’s, which include regulation and relationships.” Read full story.

Researchers at York University study how much gravity is enough

Astronaut in space

STS-118 EVA EMU Suit by NASA. Licensed under public domain by way of Wikimedia Commons

Keeping upright in a low-gravity environment is not easy, and NASA documents abound with examples of astronauts falling on the lunar surface.

Now, a new study by an international team of researchers led by York University Professors Laurence Harris and Michael Jenkin, published Sept. 3 in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests that the reason for all these moon mishaps might be because its gravity isn’t sufficient to provide astronauts with unambiguous information on which way is “up.”

“The perception of the relative orientation of oneself and the world is important not only to balance, but also for many other aspects of perception including recognizing faces and objects and predicting how objects are going to behave when dropped or thrown,” says Harris. “Misinterpreting which way is up can lead to perceptual errors and threaten balance if a person uses an incorrect reference point to stabilize themselves.”

Using a short-arm centrifuge provided by the European Space Agency, the international team simulated gravitational fields of different strengths and used a York-invented perceptual test to measure the effectiveness of gravity in determining the perception of up. The team found that the threshold level of gravity needed to just influence a person’s orientation judgement was about 15 per cent of the level found on Earth – very close to that on the moon.

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