Innovative, pan-University capstone classroom launches in September

A new, full-year capstone course is being pilot tested this fall at York University. C4: The Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom brings together third- and fourth-year students from different faculties into multidisciplinary teams focused on solving pressing, real-world challenges posed by organizations operating in both the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds. C4 partners include the Yonge Street Mission, the Al and Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre, Glendon’s Globally Networked Learning Project, and Panoplo Inc.— among many others.

Danielle Robinson

“Capstone courses provide high impact learning opportunities for students that set them up to succeed after graduation,” says Danielle Robinson, the director of the York Capstone Network and an associate professor in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance, & Design. ”These important experiential learning courses, which are offered in many departments across the University, apply and thus consolidate what a student has learned in his or her major. This is achieved generally through an individual or group project, but placements can also serve as excellent capstone experiences for students, if they are integrated with ongoing critical reflection and assignments that apply students’ skills and knowledges.”

Franz Newland

Robinson and Franz Newland, an assistant professor in the Lassonde School of Engineering, are co-facilitating C4 as an extension of the York Capstone Network they founded last year, with integral support from the Teaching Commons and the Career Centre. The YCN, which is now bolstered by a two-year AIF Grant, brings together dozens of faculty who have been, are, or want to be teaching capstone courses. Network members gather for monthly cafés, where capstone students, pedagogy experts, and York staff allies explore the immense rewards and challenges of capstones.

C4 is a pan-University classroom, but not yet an official course, that requires students to register in a three- or six-credit independent study, directed reading, senior thesis, or capstone course in their home department. Once students gain entry to C4 through their department, they will meet senior students from other faculties, form interdisciplinary teams, and then get to work on real-world problems provided by community partners, who will mentor them over the course of the school year.

“The advantage of this approach to capstone teaching is students get a taste of the ‘real-world’ before leaving York,” says Carolyn Steele, a career development coordinator in the Career Center and adjunct professor in Humanities. “The world along with its challenges and opportunities are intrinsically multidisciplinary; however, many degrees are not—they are typically disciplinary in focus. C4 gives participants the opportunity to collaborate with students from other majors as well as with professors and professionals outside their departments. In this way, they come to know what they have to offer the world as well as the value of their discipline and their York degree.”

The pan-University nature of C4 speaks to its dedication to true interdisciplinary collaboration and creation. “Other multidisciplinary capstones typically bring together students from only two or three pre-selected disciplines,” says Natasha May, an educational developer in the Teaching Commons and adjunct professor in mathematics. “In contrast, C4 makes it possible for as many as eight students—all coming from different academic backgrounds—to come together to engage in problem-based learning, with the potential for each group to have a completely different disciplinary makeup. This all makes for very rich experiential learning that will set C4 students apart on the job market.”

Robinson and Newland are supported in this groundbreaking endeavor by a resource team that is as diverse as C4’s participants: Carolyn Steele (Career Centre and LAPS), Natasha May (Teaching Commons and Science), Bridget Cauthery (AMPD), Alice Kim (Health), and Kai Zhuang (Lassonde). They are backed up by Lassonde and its Student Engagement Team and as well as a host of York’s experiential education (EE) coordinators, who have spent the summer building relationships with multiple community partners and curating nearly 40 “real-world” challenges for multidisciplinary teams of York students to tackle.

C4 students will work in Interdisciplinary teams to solve real-world problems

At the end of the full-year course, C4 student teams will present their projects to all the community partners at a capstone showcase event that will be open to the whole York community. Newland says that “C4 ends with a big celebration—of these students and all they have accomplished this year, of the partners and all they have contributed, and of York and its commitment to pedagogical innovation, experiential education, and student success.”

He urges students who are looking for a “real world” experience before they graduate to confirm their interest in C4 as soon as possible by contacting their home departments and the C4 Team directly at

“Pitch Day, where the community partners pitch their challenges to the student teams, is Sept. 6th from 4 to 7 p.m and the first C4 class meeting takes place Sept. 9th from 6 to 9pm,” says Newland. “Programs and students who don’t want to miss this terrific opportunity should email us right away—all are welcome.”

To learn more, visit the C4: Cross-Campus Capstone Classroom webpage on the York Capstone Network website.

Lassonde postdoctoral researcher, Christina L. Smith, selected to join NASA mission to Jupiter

NASA has selected Christina L. Smith, a postdoctoral researcher at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, to be a participating scientist on NASA’s Juno Mission to Jupiter.

Congratulations, Christina !!.

For more info, click here.

Lassonde Professor talks Ozone Layer on Irish Podcast

Lassonde School of Engineering Professor Emeritus Tom McElroy was recently featured in an interview on the radio show and subsequent podcast Kerry Today, with host Joe McGill, alongside the director of the Irish Meteorological Service (Met Eireann), Eoin Moran. The show took place in Ireland where McElroy was on location visiting the weather station in Valentia.

This interview came after a busy few weeks for McElroy, where he’d just participated in a Brewer Spectrophotometer comparison meeting and workshop at the AEMET facility at El Arenosillo, in southern Spain. There, he delivered three lectures and worked with some of the other scientists.

On Kerry Today, the trio discussed the function of the ozone layer and the changes it has experienced, caused by current weather and climate changes.

McElroy is positioned well to speak on the topic, as a leading world scientist on the ozone at Valentia Observatory in Cahersiveen.

Perhaps most notably, McElroy is one of three ozone scientists responsible for the invention of the UV index and the Brewer Spectrophotometer in the late 70s – early 80s.The index is responsible for the global awareness about the need to use sunscreen and hats to prevent skin damage from UV exposure.

The Brewer Spectrophotometer, used in 45 countries worldwide including Ireland, monitors the stratospheric ozone layer that protects us from the sun’s UV.

“The real impact of the system is to alert people to the fact that excessive exposure is a precursor to getting various types of cancer, including melanoma, which is an infrequent but highly dangerous cancer with a death rate close to 50%,” informed McElroy.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

Professor Peter Taylor’s Paper featured on front cover of Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans

Atmospheric Science Professor Peter Taylor and Grad student Soudeh Afsharian’s paper, On the Potential Impact of Lake Erie Wind Farms on Water Temperatures and Mixed‐Layer Depths: Some Preliminary 1‐D Modeling Using COHERENS was featured on the front cover of the Journal of Geophysical Research’s March issue.

Their research article covers Lake Erie’s potential as a significant wind energy resource. If wind farms were to be installed offshore in Lake Erie in the limited areas with water depths suitable for wind farms, there would be significant effects on the wind field and they could potentially raise water temperatures.

The objective of Taylor and Afsharian’s research is to study the airflow over certain Great Lakes with and without wind farms to investigate the effects on circulation, mixing and water quality issues.

A more detailed paper has been submitted for possible publication in the Journal on Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics, and Soudeh is extending her work with support from a York University postdoctoral fellowship (YPDF).

The Abstract is below:

Lake Erie has a significant wind energy resource potential, with extensive areas of moderate water depth and proximity to major cities and industries with substantial electricity demands.

The presence of significant numbers of large turbines in wind farms will lead to reduced wind speeds and wind stresses in the wakes within and downwind of the farms.

This in turn will affect surface fluxes, currents, and mixing in lake waters, generally allowing increased surface temperatures and reduced summer time mixed‐layer depths.

The potential magnitude of these impacts is investigated with a one-dimensional application of the Coupled Hydrodynamical‐Ecological Model for Regional and Shelf Seas model for three different water depths using observed meteorological data as input.

Lassonde Student, Sogand Talebi, featured on CBC Panel to discuss Apollo 11 and its impact on Pop Culture

Lassonde’s own Space Engineering student Sogand Talebi was recently featured in a panel discussion on CBC The National in honour of Apollo 11 (the Moon Landing’s) 50th anniversary. Talebi chatted with the likes of Canadian Astronaut, Dave Williams and Entertainment reporter, Eli Glasner. The segment featured roundtable discussions from the trio on the future of Space Exploration and its representation in pop culture as a source of inspiration.

Talebi’s initial interest in space came from her parents. They often read her astronomy magazines before bed instead of more traditional bedtime stories. In the way fairytales often pique the interest of curious children, these magazines opened up a whole new world for her and from there, her love of space exploration – and all things related to it – was born..


The panel discussed representation in franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars, where the focus is only on the pilots and scientists, forgetting about the behind-the-scenes players, like lawyers or governing bodies, who enable the success of all space missions.

Talebi herself had the chance to participate in a European space Agency course on Space Law earlier this summer. The course introduced her to much of the background work required to complete a successful space mission – those that aren’t often depicted on screen.

Astronaut Dave Williams acknowledges that the portrayal of space exploration in Sci-Fi culture is limited to features such as ‘warp drive’ and laser beams. However, he believes these reference points are exciting as they stimulate imagination which can then translate into idea proposals for new technology to help go farther into space.

Sogand concludes,

“I feel like with space, it’s kind of like Pandora’s box: the more you open, the more you realize how much more we need to explore. It wasn’t too long ago that we didn’t know there were other galaxies. [Space exploration] opens up so many different worlds and universes.”

Watch the full panel discussion here.

Geomatics Engineering Prof. Jianguo Wang, leads Chinese to English translation of well-known textbook

York University Geomatics Engineering Professor Jianguo Wang led the English edition of Error Theory and Foundation of Surveying Adjustment, a well-known university textbook in Chinese authored by faculty in the Teaching and Research Section of Surveying Adjustment at the School of Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering at Wuhan University, China.

For more info, click here.

Mitchell Palmer, Lassonde grad awarded the Bergeron Medal

Each year, a top student graduating from the Lassonde School of Engineering is selected to receive the Bergeron Medal in recognition of their academic and entrepreneurial achievements in the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (BEST) program at York University.

Mitchell Palmer shows off his BEST award

This year, the Bergeron Medal has been awarded to Mitchell Palmer who has just graduated with a degree in geomatics engineering. Palmer was recognized for his academic achievements and participation in innovative and challenging projects such as the first Engineers Without Borders offered by Lassonde in conjunction with Technion Institute of Technology in Israel.

While studying at Lassonde, Palmer participated in both Hack Lassonde and the 2019 National Geomatics Competition in Calgary, AB. In addition to these activities, Palmer undertook research with geomatics engineering Professor Baoxin Hu where he focused on artificial intelligence and remote sensing.

He is also one of the first three students to complete the new BEST certificate – which involves completing relevant courses at Lassonde, the Schulich School of Business and Osgoode Hall Law School –and winning a pitch competition. This experience Palmer said helped him prepare for his successful capstone project where he developed an automated functioning machine learning application for identifying hydro poles and other road assets.

The BEST program is a unique interdisciplinary initiative offered at York University and supported by Doug Bergeron, a York alumnus and successful technology entrepreneur (Verifone). BEST offers in-class, experiential and international opportunities to help develop Canada’s next generation of technology entrepreneurs, through a combination of curricular and co-curricular activities and real-world experiences to aspiring student-entrepreneurs.

Lassonde PhD student, Athina Peidou, wins award for research paper

Third-year Earth and Space Science and Engineering PhD student Athina Peidou has been awarded with the International Association of Geodesy Young Authors Award for her work on the paper titled “On the feasibility of using satellite gravity observations for detecting large-scale solid mass transfer events,” published in the Journal of Geodesy.

         Athina Peidou

The focus of her research paper involved assessing whether satellite gravity measurements can detect large scale landslides, with emphasis on submarine landslides. Satellite gravity measurements provide an excellent source of information for mass movements and Peidou’s research uses this information to better understand the Earth’s processes.

“While most people are aware of the 2011 earthquake and the subsequent tsunami in Tohoku, Japan, it took a couple years to detect the massive submarine landslide offshore Japan that was induced by the earthquake,” said Peidou.

Due to limited information on oceanic environments, most submarine landslides still remain unknown. With satellite gravity measurements’ continuous availability, submarine events can be detected practically. The news has documented many of the detrimental effects of landslides on societies where in some cases, the events have taken human lives. This research is an important contribution toward understanding Earth’s mechanisms.

“The more we know about the dynamic Earth system, the more prepared we can be as a society to deal with certain phenomena,” said Peidou.

This award recognizes the value of satellite gravity missions and Peidou said she is honoured to have made such an important contribution to the field. “The Lassonde School of Engineering is definitely a big supporter of my research. The school not only provides the proper resources, but also gives me spirit to advance my research,” said Peidou.

Peidou said the exposure to different ways of thinking was key to her success, with the school offering an interdisciplinary approach to research, which allows her to explore a variety of engineering disciplines.

“She is a true influential leader, a go-getter, a congenial personality, a creative and positive thinker, solution-oriented visionary and an amazing communicator,” said her supervisor, Professor Spiros Pagiatakis.

In addition to her academic responsibilities, Peidou is active in professional associations. She serves as a student member in the Canadian Geophysical Union Executive and is the president of the Earth & Space Science & Engineering Department’s Graduate Student Association.

Peidou will attend an award ceremony at the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics’ 27th General Assembly Award’s Evening, which will take place in Montreal in July.

Congratulations Athina !!.

Governor General Gold Medal, Dr. Ebrahim Ghaderpour for superior academic accomplishments

Dr. Ebrahim Ghaderpour: Received the Governor General Gold Medal for “Demonstrated superior academic accomplishments”. The award will be bestowed upon him at the June 14, 2019 Convocation Ceremony.

Congratulations, Dr. Ebrahim !!.

Geomatics PhD Student, Sowmya Natesan, takes home Enbridge Graduate Student Award

Fourth Year PhD student, Sowmya Natesan, has been selected as the recipient of York University’s Enbridge Graduate Student Award for her research on tree species identification.

The Enbridge Graduate Student Award supports students at York University pursuing research in sustainability and the environment.

After completing her masters in Remote Sensing at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Sowmya joined Lassonde’s Geomatics Engineering PhD program as an International student, attracted by the endless career opportunities Canada offered her field of study.

She has since found the expertise and breadth of experience of Lassonde’s professors extremely helpful in driving her research forward, continuously impressed with the high-level, multi-disciplinary research being conducted across the School.

“I am particularly grateful to my supervisor Professor Costas Armenakis for his incredible support and encouragement,” Sowmya notes.

Sowmya’s research focuses on individual tree species identification in forests using cutting-edge technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles and Deep Learning, with the goal of introducing a cost-effective method to automatically identify tree species in forests.

Precise tree species classification will play an important role in the monitoring of biodiversity, forest health, wildlife habitat modelling, hazard management and climate change studies helping to ensure the sustainability of Canada’s publicly owned forests.

Canada is home to 9 per cent of the world’s overall forest cover, making the country’s resources essential to future environment, communities and economy.

“Efficient management of Canadian forests provide critical contributions to the conservation of the global ecosystem.

Canada is committed to sustainably managed forests,” says Sowmya, whose work is contributing to this goal through cutting-edge applications like robotization in forestry.

“As a mother of a two-year-old, this award gives me great confidence in my abilities. It’s been challenging juggling studies and motherhood but I’m motivated to work even harder. This award helps me work toward my degree without the financial worry.”

Congratulations Sowmya!