The Faculty of Science has gained a new and two renewed Canada Research Chairs (CRC). Professor Kohitij Kar received a new CRC appointment and Professors Christopher Caputo and Raymond W.M. Kwong had their CRCs renewed.
Kohitij Kar is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science and CRC Tier II in Visual Neuroscience. His research lab is a core part of the Vision: Science to Technology Application (VISTA) Program and the Centre for Vision Research at York University. As humans, we can seamlessly interact with the world around us thanks to our remarkably sophisticated visual system. These interactions depend on our brain’s ability to translate the images we see. But understanding the brain’s sophisticated computations has been a challenge. As Canada Research Chair in Visual Neuroscience, Kar is uncovering the inner workings of the primate visual system.
Kar and his research team are performing detailed circuit-level neural measurements in non-human primates and relating them to specific visual behaviours. They are using their findings to develop artificial intelligence (AI) systems that mimic the primate brain in hopes of coming up with treatment strategies for mental health disorders that could improve cognitive behavioral therapies. Ultimately, Kar’s research could help millions of individuals suffering from neurological disorders by providing new knowledge about brain function.
Renewed Canada Research Chairs
Christopher Caputo is CRC Tier II (renewed) in Main-Group Catalysis and Sustainable Chemistry and an assistant professor of chemistry in the Faculty of Science. Chemicals provide the building blocks of many of the products we rely on every day, from pharmaceuticals to agrochemicals for growing food to dyes for cosmetics. But producing chemicals is an energy-intensive and polluting process, so it is critical that we discover far more sustainable approaches. Caputo is tackling this problem using a two-pronged approach.
First, he and his research team are developing greener catalysts to create chemicals (a catalyst lowers the barriers to a chemical reaction). These catalysts are produced using less energy and without the need for precious metals, which are rare, expensive and unsustainable. Secondly, the team is working on an innovative platform technology from renewable feedstocks with the goal of revolutionizing personal care by producing ultra-long lasting sun protection.
Raymond (Wai Man) Kwong is CRC Tier II (renewed) in Environmental Toxicology and an associate professor in the Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science. Human activities such as overfishing, plastic dumping, oils and gas spills, and the production of agricultural and industrial waste, lead to the deaths of trillions of aquatic animals every year. Kwong is advancing our understanding of how these environmental stressors affect the function of aquatic animals’ nervous systems.
Kwong and his research team are using molecular neurophysiology and functional genetics tools to study the toxicity of metals and bisphenol compounds in the early stages of aquatic animals’ lives. Their aim is to identify the mechanisms behind their toxic response or tolerance and to shed light on the relationship between environmental toxins and geno- and phenotypes. Ultimately, their findings will support the development of better strategies to regulate water quality and protect aquatic life and biodiversity.