York Research Chairs

The York Research Chairs program is envisioned as York University's internal counterpart for the national Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program and recognizes outstanding researchers at York. The level of support and recognition provided to York Research Chairs is expected to be aligned with supports and recognition provided through the CRC program.

York Research Chairs are available at two levels analogous to CRC chairs. Tier 1 York Research Chairs are open to established research leaders at the rank of full professor, while Tier 2 York Research Chairs are aimed at emerging research leaders within 15 years of their first academic appointment. Both have five-year terms that are renewable in the context of open-competition based on peer review and the continuing availability of resources.

York Research Chairs Program Report - Report from York Research Chair Program Review Panel (March 2018)


Tier I Chairs

Benjamin L. Berger, Osgoode Hall Law School, was awarded a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Pluralism and Public Law. Berger is internationally recognized as one of Canada’s foremost experts in law and religion, and constitutional and criminal law and theory. He is an award-winning scholar and teacher, deeply engaged in public and professional education and advocacy.  Interdisciplinary and comparative in its approach, Berger’s research is dedicated to advancing knowledge about the unique challenges and complex role of public law in deeply diverse societies.


Photo of N. BergeronNantel Bergeron, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Faculty of Science, was awarded a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Applied Algebra.  Bergeron is one of the pioneers in the development of the theory of combinatorial Hopf algebras that serve as a conceptual laboratory in which researchers can understand and solve complex problems from other areas of science and mathematics. His research program will help to better understand the complexity of algorithms in computer science and mathematics and bring further insights into super-symmetry of nature.


Photo of E. BialystokEllen Bialystok, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health, has received a Tier 1 Walter Gordon York Research Chair in Lifespan Cognitive Development. Her research examines the effects of experience on cognitive function and brain organization across the lifespan, with a particular focus on bilingualism as an example of an intense and prevalent experience. The award will support studies of patients with early Alzheimer’s disease to provide a more complete description of these dynamic changes and develop a training protocol based on compensation that will improve cognitive function for all patients.


Deborah Britzman, Faculty of Education, has received a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Pedagogy and Psycho-Social Transformations. Britzman's research interests are in psychoanalysis with education and studies of learning as psychosocial transformation. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Psychoanalyst, she is the author of 100 articles and eight books.


James ElderJames Elder has received a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Human and Computer Vision. Elder is a member of the Centre for Vision Research and a professor in the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Psychology at York University, and is appointed as a joint Lassonde School of Engineering/Faculty of Health Tier I Chair. His research interests include the development of novel and useful computer vision algorithms and machine vision systems through a better understanding of visual processing in biological systems.


Ilijas Farah, Faculty of Science, has been bestowed a York Research Chair in Foundations of Operator Algebras. Farah singlehandedly developed the field of the applications of logic to operator algebras, revealing deep and unexpected connections between the foundations of mathematics and some of the most concrete and ubiquitous mathematical objects. A top researcher in both of these hitherto unrelated subjects, he was invited to speak at the International Congress of Mathematicians. He was also fortunate to supervise some spectacularly talented PhD students.


Stephen Gaetz, Faculty of Education, was awarded the York Research Chair in Homelessness and Research Impact. He is the director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, the Homeless Hub, and Making the Shift – Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab. He has a long-standing interest in understanding homelessness – its causes, how it is experienced and potential solutions. His research is defined by his desire to ‘make research matter’ through working in collaboration with partners to conduct and mobilize research so as to have an impact on policy and practice.


Laurence Harris, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health, was awarded a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Multisensory Integration. Harris investigates how we integrate information from our different senses to create the perception of our own body, and our sense of position and movement in the world. He is the Director of the Centre for Vision Research at York, an international leader in biological and machine vision research and a core member of the Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA) program.


Eric HesselsPhoto of E. Hessels, is a York University Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and a  Tier 1 York Research Chair in Atomic Physics. He is part of a collaboration whose goal is to hold antihydrogen (the antimatter version of the hydrogen atoms) in a magnetic trap and use them to conduct precise tests of the symmetries and physics of antimatter. He is also working on using precision measurements of atomic helium to make a 3-part-per-billion determination of the fine-structure constant, and a precise measurement in atomic hydrogen to determine the size of the proton.


Janine Marchessault, Department of Cinema and Media Studies, School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design, was awarded a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Media Arts and Community Engagement. Marchessault held the Canada Research Chair in Art, Digital Media and Globalization (2003-2013). She was the co-founder of Future Cinema Lab and the inaugural Director of Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts and Technology Research at York University. In 2018, she won a $2+ million Partnership grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for “Archive/Counter-Archive: Activating Canada’s Moving Image Heritage,” which involves 43 co-applicants and has collaborators from Canada and across the globe.


Photo of O. OkaforObiora Okafor, Osgoode Hall Law School, is the inaugural Tier 1 York Research Chair in International and Transnational Legal Studies. Building on an ongoing research project about Canadian/Nigerian cooperation on human rights (including in the sub-areas of economic and social rights, judicial strengthening, institution building, democratization and poverty alleviation), and other research projects, the award supports the expansion of Okafor’s research to include a focus on the study of Canadian human rights cooperation initiatives with all of the countries in Anglophone West Africa.


C. PengChun Peng, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, was awarded a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Women's Reproductive Health. Peng’s long-term goal for her research program is to understand the regulation of female reproduction and the mechanisms underlying the development of ovarian cancer and preeclampsia. Her proposed research will enhance the overall understanding of female reproductive health and reveal novel biomarkers for preeclampsia and therapeutic targets for ovarian cancer.


York U researcher Lauren SergioLauren Sergio has received a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Brain Health and Skilled Performance. Sergio is a professor in the Faculty of Health’s School of Kinesiology and Health Science. She is appointed as a Tier I Chair. Her research investigates the effects of age, sex, neurological disease, head injury and experience (elite versus non-elite athletes) on the brain’s control of complex movement. Sergio works with a wide range of adult populations, including NHL draft prospects and Alzheimer’s disease patients, using behavioural and brain imaging techniques. She is a member of the Centre for Vision Research, a research  affiliate at Southlake Regional Health Centre and a member of the York Lions Sport Medicine Team.


Gary Sweeney, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, was awarded a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Mechanisms of Cardiometabolic Diseases. Sweeney is an expert on diabetes and cardiovascular disease. His work focuses on understanding mechanisms of cardiometabolic diseases, such as heart failure, and is designed to advance knowledge that will facilitate our fundamental understanding of causes of these diseases. Thus, his research will result in informed decision-making and improved health care. His research is supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.


Laurie M. Wilcox, Faculty of Health, was bestowed the York Research Chair in 3D Vision. She is a member of the Centre for Vision Research and VISTA (Vision: Science to Applications). Her research focuses on the neural mechanisms responsible for human depth perception and how depth information is processed under complex real-world conditions. She has a long history of collaboration with industry partners, for instance in 3D film (IMAX, Christie) and more recently in virtual and augmented reality (Qualcomm Canada) and image quality (VESA).


Richard WildesRichard Wildes has received a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Computational Vision. Wildes is associate director of the Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA) project, a member of the Centre for Vision Research and an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science of the Lassonde School of Engineering. He is appointed as a Tier I Chair. He is the recipient of a Sarnoff Corporation Technical Achievement Award, the IEEE D.G. Fink Prize Paper Award for his Proceedings of the IEEE publication “Iris Recognition: An Emerging Biometric Technology.” He has twice been invited to present lectures to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. His research interests include computer vision, video understanding, machine vision applications and artificial intelligence.


Dan Zhang Dan Zhang has received a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Advanced Robotics and Mechatronics. Zhang is a professor and Kaneff Research Chair in Advanced Robotics and Mechatronics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the Lassonde School of Engineering. He is appointed as a Tier I Chair. From 2004 to 2015, Zhang was an assistant/associate professor/full professor and Canada Research Chair in Advanced Robotics and Automation, and was a founding Chair of the Department of Automotive, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering with the Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science at University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Zhang’s research interests include robotics and mechatronics, high performance parallel robotic machine development, micro/nano manipulation and MEMS devices, and rehabilitation robots and rescue robots.


Huaiping ZhuHuaiping Zhu has received a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Applied Mathematics. Zhu is a professor of mathematics in the Faculty of Science and director of the Laboratory of Mathematical Parallel Systems (LAMPS) at York University. Appointed as a Tier I Chair, he has research interests that include dynamical systems and differential equations; bifurcation theory and applications; Hilbert’s sixteenth problem; mathematical ecology and epidemiology; climate change modelling and impact studies; and developing mathematical models, theories, methodologies and tools for the prevention and control of vector-borne diseases.


Zheng Hong (George) Zhu, Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Lassonde School of Engineering, was awarded a Tier 1 York Research Chair in Space Technology. Zhu is the Director of the Space Engineering Design Laboratory at the Lassonde School of Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering. His research interests touch on a number of topics including the dynamics and control of tethered spacecraft systems, electrodynamic tether propulsion and space debris removal, space robotics and advanced spacecraft materials.


Tier II Chairs

Ali Abdul-Sater, Faculty of Health, was awarded the York Research Chair in the Regulatory Mechanisms of Inflammation. He is interested in identifying novel regulators of inflammation and understanding how these regulators control immunity and the inflammatory response. He is pursuing several avenues of research: the roles of the protein TRAF1 in controlling inflammatory and autoimmune diseases; the role of Type I interferons (proteins made in response to the presence of viruses) in bacterial and viral responses; and how exercise regulates the immune response.


Robert Allison, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, School of Engineering and a member of the VISTA program, was awarded a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Stereoscopic Vision and Depth Perception. He is interested in human perceptual responses in virtual environments and the study of stereoscopic visions. He is also interested in the measurement and analysis of eye movements and the applications of this technology.


Kristin Andrews, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, was awarded a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Animal Minds. Andrews' interests are in animal and child social cognition and moral development. She has worked with dolphins in Hawaii and orangutans in Borneo. Her research area is in the philosophy of psychology. Her first book, Do Apes Read Minds?, was published by MIT Press in 2012.


Uzo Anucha, School of Social Work, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, was awarded a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Youth and Contexts of Inequity. Anucha conceptualizes her research as a community dialogue centred on equitable collaborations with community stakeholders during the research process. She is the Provincial Academic Director of the Youth Research and Evaluation eXchange (YouthREX), a multi-million investment by the Ontario government. YouthREX makes research evidence and evaluation practices accessible to Ontario’s grassroots youth sector through capacity building, knowledge exchange and evaluation leadership. YouthREX is an innovative knowledge hub for the Ontario youth sector.


Jacob BeckJacob Beck has received a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Philosophy of Visual Perception. Beck is an associate professor of philosophy in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and is also a member of the Cognitive Science Program, the Centre for Vision Research and the Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA) program. Appointed as a Tier II Chair, he has research interests that include the study of mental representation and consciousness from an empirically informed philosophical perspective. Most of his current research centres on three issues: the format of mental representation, the perception–cognition boundary, and how consciousness and representation interrelate.


Sheila Colla, Faculty of Environmental Studies, was bestowed the York Research Chair in Interdisciplinary Conservation Science. She is an ecologist using scientific principles to address real-world conservation issues. Her research focuses on the conservation of lesser understood native species such as bees, butterflies and flowering plants. She works closely with environmental NGOs, landowners, academic partners and government agencies to implement conservation management based on the best available science. She wants her research to inform relevant environmental and agricultural policy.


Photo of M. Daly

Mike Daly, Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering, was awarded a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Planetary Science in recognition of his outstanding contribution to space-flight instrumentation research at York. The York Research Chair will enable Daly’s participation in NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and the return of Canada’s first sample of material from another solar system.


Hany Farag, Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Lassonde School of Engineering, was awarded a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Integrated Smart Energy Grids. Farag has research interest including the integration of renewable generation, energy storage and electric vehicles, renewable hydrogen and natural gas, and smart grids. Since joining York, Farag has secured over $500,000 in funding from NSERC and power utilities. He led the development of teaching and research laboratories in the new Electrical Engineering program, worth $2 million. He received an Early Researcher Award from the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science in 2018.


Sarah Flicker, Faculty of Environmental Studies, was awarded the York Research Chair in Community-Based Participatory Research. She is an expert in community development, health promotion and adolescent well-being. Flicker’s innovative program of research focuses on the engagement of youth and other allied actors in environmental, sexual and reproductive justice. She works across methodologies using participatory approaches for social change.


Eve Haque, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, was awarded the York Research Chair in Linguistic Diversity and Community Vitality. She has research and teaching interests that include multiculturalism, white settler colonialism and language policy, with a focus on the regulation and representation of racialized groups in white settler societies. Her current research focus is on the recognition and language rights of non-official language communities in Canada. She is also the author of Multiculturalism Within a Bilingual Framework: Language, Race and Belonging in Canada.


Ryan Hili, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, was awarded a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Molecular Evolution. Hili’s research interests that focus on using DNA to program and encode the synthesis of molecular libraries ranging from small molecules to synthetic biopolymers. By using the principles of Darwinian evolution, his lab can evolve these molecular libraries for desired function, yielding small molecule drugs to treat human disease or antibody mimetics for use in medical diagnostics. Hili received an Early Researcher Award from the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science to build a research team in 2018.


Photo of J. HuangJimmy Huang, School of Information Technology, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, received a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Big Data Analytics. Huang’s research focuses on the areas of information retrieval, big data and their applications to the web and medical healthcare. The objective of his research program is to overcome limitations of existing information retrieval methods and to formally develop a new retrieval paradigm called context-sensitive and task-aware information search for big data.


Brent Lyons, Schulich School of Business, was awarded a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Stigmatization and Social Identity. Lyons studies stigma in organizations and how individuals with stigmatized social identities, such as disability, navigate their work and interpersonal relationships to reduce consequences of stigmatization. He has published his work in numerous journals, such as Academy of Management Review, the Journal of Applied Psychology and the Journal of Management. He serves on various editorial boards, including that of the Journal of Applied Psychology and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 


John Moores, Department of Earth and Space Science Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering, was awarded a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Space Exploration. Moores is an internationally recognized planetary scientist and space engineer whose research explores the atmospheres and surfaces of other worlds. His research group has been a member of the science and operations teams of five ESA and NASA space missions to Mars and Titan, and has been awarded the NASA group achievement award on 16 occasions. Moores has published 63 papers garnering more than 4,950 citations. He was elected as a Member of the College of New Scholars in the Royal Society of Canada in 2018.


Amy Muise, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health, was awarded a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Relationships and Sexuality. Muise studies the maintenance of sexual desire and relationship satisfaction in romantic relationships. This is important given that long-lasting, happy relationships are key contributors to overall health and well-being, and that lowering the divorce rate helps to reduce financial instability and negative health and psychological consequences. Muise was bestowed an Early Researcher Award from the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science in 2018. Her research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.


rosenbaum-8699-5x7-300R. Shayna Rosenbaum, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health and core member of the Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA) program is a Tier 2 VISTA York Research Chair in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory. Combining the study of brain-damaged patients with brain imaging and innovative cognitive tests, she has shown how different forms of memory are represented in the brain and how they contribute to other functions from decision making to social interaction. She is harnessing this knowledge to develop strategies to help healthy older adults and patients overcome memory loss.


Ali Sadeghi-Naini, Lassonde School of Engineering, was awarded the York Research Chair in Quantitative Imaging and Smart Biomarkers. He is an emerging leader in multi-disciplinary research at the intersection of AI, biomedical engineering, biophysics and oncology. His seminal studies demonstrated, for the first time, that quantitative ultrasound biomarkers at low frequencies can detect cell death induced by anti-cancer therapies. He seeks to develop quantitative imaging and biomarker technologies integrated with innovative machine learning and computational modeling techniques for precision medicine and personalized therapeutics.


Valérie A.M. Schoof, Glendon Campus, was bestowed the York Research Chair in Primate Behavioural Endocrinology. She is a primatologist whose research program, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and New Frontiers in Research Fund, focuses on the ecology, sociality, physiology and life history of wild primates in East Africa, and the biological, geographical and cultural factors influencing human-wildlife interactions. She is also the director of the Primate Behavioural Endocrinology Lab, recently funded by Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund.


Dayna ScottDayna Nadine Scott has received a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Environmental Law and Justice in the Green Economy. Scott joined the Faculty at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 2006. She is cross-appointed to York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. Appointed as a Tier II Chair, she has a teaching focus on environmental law and justice, risk regulation and international environmental governance. She is a co-director of Osgoode’s Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic, with research interests that focus on contestation over extraction, the distribution of pollution burdens affecting marginalized communities and vulnerable populations, and the justice dimensions of the transition to a greener economy.


Marlis Schweitzer, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, was bestowed the York Research Chair in Theatre and Performance History. She is a theatre and performance historian with a specialization in 19th and early-20th century Anglo-American performance. Schweitzer plans to use her YRC to explore urgent questions about the relationship between historical casting practices, theatre’s role in the circulation and perpetuation of racist stereotypes, and the onstage representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) individuals in contemporary Anglo-American performance.


Sapna Sharma, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science was awarded a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Global Change Biology. Sharma is interested in predicting the effects of environmental stressors, such as climate change, invasive species, land use change, and habitat alteration, on ecosystems and improving the use of quantitative approaches used to generate these predictions.


Jonathan WeissJonathan Weiss has received a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disability Mental Health. Weiss is a clinical psychologist and associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health. Appointed as a Tier II Chair, he has research foci on the prevention and treatment of mental health problems in people with autism and/or intellectual disabilities across the lifespan. Weiss also holds the CIHR Chair in Autism Spectrum Disorders Treatment and Care Research. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Dual Diagnosis Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and was a research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.


Derek WilsonDerek Wilson has received a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Molecular Mechanisms of Disease. Wilson is an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, at York University. He holds the position of director of the Centre for Research in Mass Spectrometry (CRMS). Appointed as a Tier II Chair, he specializes in developing novel mass-spectrometry methods to investigate biomedical problems at a molecular level. He has a Krembil Foundation-funded project that focuses on the causes of Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative disease affecting an estimated 44 million patients worldwide, and with a global disease burden of more than $600 billion. His program is highly collaborative with industry for the accelerated development of anti-neurodegenerative drugs.


Photo of A. ZayedAmro Zayed, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, was awarded a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Genomics. Zayed’s research group sequences the genomes of thousands of bees to identify mutations that influence their economically and ecologically relevant traits. Zayed’s program aims to improve the health of Canadian honey bees, which will increase the sustainability and security of Canada’s food supply.