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2023 York Science Highlights

Contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

UN SDG Wheel

The Faculty of Science rises to the York University-wide challenge to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as outlined in the University Academic Plan 2020-2025. Below are highlights of initiatives and projects taking place in the Faculty that tackle key societal challenges aligned with the UN SDGs:

  • SDG 3, Good Health and Well-Being: Professor Jude Kong, Department of Mathematics & Statistics, is leading the Global South Artificial Intelligence for Pandemic and Epidemic Preparedness and Response Network (AI4PEP). The project will help strengthen capacity and support prevention, early detection, preparedness, mitigation, and control of emerging or re-emerging infectious disease outbreaks in low- and middle-income countries in Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East.
  • SDG 4, Quality Education: We provided five summer module courses in the sciences for incoming students and other students at York to improve transition to first year programs. 150 completed these programs, with significant positive impacts on student success and retention.
  • SDG 5: Gender Equality; SDG 10, Reduced Inequality; and SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities: Our Science Engagement Programs offered STEM programming to thousands of elementary and high school students in the GTA. This included fully-subsidized programming for youth in marginalized communities, our partnership program with Skills for Change for Black Youth in STEM, and workshops for girls and gender diverse students.
  • SDG 13, Climate Action; and SDG 14, Life Below Water: Professor Sapna Sharma, Department of Biology, was appointed as a Tier 2 York Research Chair (YRC) in Global Change Biology. Her research as YRC will seek to gain a deeper understanding of the ecological impacts of climate change on freshwater availability and quality. The research program will collaborate with researchers across disciplines to develop technological, natural, health and social solutions to water security.
  • SDG 17, Partnerships for the Goals: In 2023, we launched dozens of research partnerships worldwide, amplifying our academic and research impact and facilitating knowledge exchange on a global scale. We also launched our Globally Networked Learning (GNL) program, enabling students and faculty around the world to share knowledge and collaborate on projects.

New programming meets the demands of industry

students in a York science lab

As times change, so do the needs of industry, and the Faculty of Science is eager to ensure that people working in science-related positions have the best possible education to meet these new demands.

In fall 2023, our Faculty successfully launched a new undergraduate program in Data Science to train students in the statistical methods, computation skills, and data analysis techniques needed to succeed as a data scientist in their chosen field.

We also worked on developing new biotechnology programs that will launch in fall 2024 at the Markham Campus: a Master’s in Biotechnology Management and a Graduate Diploma in Biotechnology, as well as a new micro-credential in Vaccine Production and Quality Control that is aligned with these programs. Furthermore, we developed our first micro-credential to teach skills in NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) Spectroscopy for Industry, which launched in winter 2024 at the Keele Campus.

The biotechnology programs slated for the Markham Campus were designed and developed by Professor Mark Bayfield, Department of Biology, and Associate Deans Hovig Kouyoumdjian and Michael Scheid. Professors Jade Atallah and Luz Adriana Puentes Jácome, Department of Biology, will be overseeing the two programs.

“Both programs are rooted in industry needs,” Atallah said. “Our colleagues did extensive research to ensure industry alignment; an evidence-based approach is driving them.”

The two programs will share biotechnology courses for the first year, but the master’s students will also take management courses through the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies that will allow them to graduate with both a Master’s in Biotechnology Management and a Graduate Diploma in Management in under two years. The integrative program also includes a capstone course and a paid internship component with industry. The diploma program requires only two semesters of coursework.

“We want these students to be very versatile,” said Puentes Jácome. “They need the professional biotechnology knowledge, but the business background will be very useful in the startup economy, while in established companies, it will give them the skills to move around.”

Connecting and Celebrating our Community

The Faculty of Science continued its Community 2022 initiative into the fall/winter and summer 2023 semesters. Created in consultation with our community and launched in fall 2022, the initiative helped faculty, staff, and students reconnect in person and supported the return to a more robust on-campus presence.

In 2023, these events, including our York Science Social, monthly Lunch with the Dean, guided faculty tours, and summer barbeque, were attended by hundreds of community members. Community 2022 built on our Faculty’s strong sense of belonging, togetherness, and commitment to support one another. A Faculty-wide survey concluded that the majority of respondents found the programming effective in increasing their connection to our Faculty of Science community, assisting with the transition to on campus work or study, and improving their feeling of well-being.

Community - Images of York Science faculty, staff, and students

Making Decolonization, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion a part of our fabric

Decolonization, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (DEDI) principles are central to the way our Faculty is teaching, conducting research, and operating.

We are working to diversify our faculty complement with targeted searches for Black and Indigenous faculty members and by recruiting more women; our Faculty increased its women faculty complement by about three percent to 31.5%, from 2020 to 2023. As well, our staff composition in 2023 reached 60.4% women, 2% Indigenous, 4% persons with a disability, 45.5% racialized, and 5% Black.

Furthermore, our instructors have been implementing a syllabus/course outline template that centres on equity, diversity and inclusion, and welcomes students into their courses. And, they have been incorporating DEDI into their teaching; for instance, a History of Astronomy course introduced Indigenous knowledge to students with a guest lecture by an Indigenous knowledge keeper, and new courses in Science, Technology & Society explore gender and racial social justice in STEM.

DEDI has also been a focus for our community outreach programming. For instance, our Science Engagement Programs office collaborated with Skills for Change to deliver a series of online and in-person STEM workshops for black high school youth (read more here).

students jumping in front of the Life Sciences Building

Supporting international skills and knowledge exchange

A fruitful partnership between the Faculty of Science and York’s Asian Business and Management Program is advancing global engagement by creating meaningful opportunities for students at York and abroad to connect and learn from each other.

One program, Jumpstart Your Future: A Career Bootcamp for Undergrads, hosted 13 students from Shanghai University at the York University Keele Campus in summer 2023. The program curriculum was shaped by the Faculty of Science and featured opportunities for our students and the students from Shanghai to foster connections, share experiences, and grow their cross-cultural understanding. The students attended sessions on topics such as strategic design and innovative thinking, communication and emotional intelligence, and data science; they also participated in experiential site visits to other institutions and companies, and completed a capstone project. Another initiative, the Global Perspectives program, delivered a series of online, non-credit courses in the areas of visual analytics and modeling, and communication in corporate and scientific settings to about 120 students from 28 Chinese universities in 2023.

Faculty of Science hosts science deans from across Canada

Science deans and associate deans at the 2023 Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Council of Deans of Science
Science deans and associate deans at the 2023 Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Council of Deans of Science

Our Faculty hosted the 2023 Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Council of Deans of Science (CCDS) to share knowledge and strengthen pan-Canadian advocacy for science education.

The three-day event was attended by 30 science deans and associate deans from universities across Canada and featured talks by experts on topics including research data storage and security; the impact of artificial intelligence on academic integrity; student and employee mental health and well-being; equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility in science education; an update on the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada funding mechanisms; and internationalization strategy. Senior leaders from York University also attended and spoke at the event, including Provost and Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps and Vice-President Research and Innovation Amir Asif.

“We were successful in our objectives: to learn from each other, share knowledge about pressing issues and challenges in science education, and further our collective voice to help drive positive change by advocating for science education and research as a national priority,” said Dean Rui Wang, who is also CCDS president.