Knowledge & creativity in action

York is brimming with innovative and original research projects aimed at creating new knowledge and new ways of applying it. As our founding motto says: The way must be tried. We are generating knowledge, works of art, ideas and innovations that engage multiple perspectives and are turning Ontario into a global knowledge economy leader.

It is impossible to list all of the ways York advanced research and innovation over the past year. Among the highlights, we created a new Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change focused on advancing sustainability and social justice in the context of the climate crisis; received a $2.26 million gift from the Carswell Family Foundation and Alzheimer Society of York Region to research Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia care programs; and launched a $10 million program to develop new ways to help preserve the health of honeybees.

Here are a few more of York’s notable current research projects.


million in research grants received


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Canada Research Chairs

Finding Flowers, a collaborative project dedicated to preserving pollinators, brings together conservation biology with Indigenous knowledge and artistic practices. By combining different methods of insight gathering and diverse learning systems, it aims to find new ways to understand and stop the loss of bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. Professors Sheila Colla and Lisa Myers received a $250,000 New Frontier’s Grant for the project.

York researchers are hard at work to increase our understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the months since the outbreak, five Faculty of Health researchers were awarded nearly a million dollars from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for COVID-19 studies on how people make decisions about risky behaviors; the best ways to regulate wildlife markets to prevent future diseases from jumping to humans from animals; and how to estimate risks for Indigenous people living in three Ontario cities.

At the same time, York University created a new fund and awarded $300,000 in research grants for 20 new research projects dedicated to fighting COVID-19. The projects will include investigating the effects of the pandemic on child protection investigations; how materials could be modified to improve personal protective equipment; and how enhanced ventilation systems could reduce the chance of infection.

Alison Humphrey, a Cinema and Media Arts PhD student, converted her art exhibition about vaccination into an online videogame. Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic, received awards from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The work allows participants to choose whether to stay home or go out, and then watch the consequences of their choice on the world. The exhibit has appeared at art shows all over the globe, and was positively reviewed by The Lancet, an influential British medical journal.

Michael Daly of the Lassonde School of Engineering is the lead scientist on an instrument that is mapping a distant asteroid, and that will help a spacecraft land and return a sample to Earth.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will land on the asteroid Bennu, a 500-meter-diameter asteroid that has remained largely unchanged since the solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago, and which could teach us more about our distant past.

The Canadian Space Agency – with the help of Daly and his team – contributed an instrument called a laser altimeter, which will create a three-dimensional map of the surface of the asteroid, and help mission scientists decide where to land the craft in order to collect samples. The mission is scheduled to return to Earth by September 2023.

What do understanding homelessness, abstract mathematics, community development and planetary science have in common? They are all among the 12 new York Research Chair recently announced as part of a program that builds research recognition and capacity through excellence in research, scholarship and associated creative activity.

The recipients included eight emerging and four established researchers. Two of these appointments are renewals. This is the seventh cohort of researchers to be appointed since the program was established in 2015.