ESSE Summer BBQ 2017

On July 12th, 2017, ESSE faculty, staff, and graduate students gathered together for yet another annual ESSE Summer BBQ.

Under the burning July sun, Team Rainbow and Team Shirts confronted each other on the soccer field. Team Rainbow bore the palm, yet the final score remains unknown…

The soccer game was followed by the delicious lunch at The Orange Snail.


L’Oscars 2017

Back on May 25th, 2017, Lassonde Awards ceremony has taken place for the academic year of 2016-2017. Congratulations to all the award recipients from ESSE Department!


Call for Projects for ENG4000

Dear colleague,

As the course directors for the capstone Engineering course at the Lassonde School of Engineering, we are looking to develop cross-campus collaborations for our students and yours for the upcoming academic year. The capstone course is a 2-semester project course taken by our 4th year students to design, develop and test an Engineering system. As part of our “Renaissance Engineering” brand, we are keen to encourage our students to recognize the importance of cross-disciplinary understanding and collaboration to come up with solutions to today’s most challenging complex problems, and would be keen to include collaborative projects with your department in our proposed capstone projects.

Last year we proposed 4 such projects (one with Music to develop an electronic flute, one with Psychology to develop a virtual reality system for Orangutans, one with the teaching commons to develop a pedagogy-support app and one with our own student services to develop a “social kiosk” for students), with our students selecting two of these. This year, we would be interested to propose more such projects. At the simplest level, these can consist of a faculty member or student / student group acting as a system user, helping our students understand the user need for a system, and working with our students to develop a solution that meets that need. If you may be interested in a different type of collaboration, however, that may benefit your department or students in another way, we would also be interested to discuss this with you.

Projects are supervised by us as course directors, along with a dedicated faculty supervisor from Lassonde and an industry adviser, and students are required to go through traditional engineering project gate reviews through the year as they develop their solutions. Whilst proposing a project is not a guarantee that a student team will select it, our students very much appreciate projects proposed from real-world users. The level of support or interaction required from your department or students can be as minimal as proposing a project or much more extensive if desired. The 2017-2018 capstone course starts in September, but we are looking to shortlist projects by early August to ensure they meet our academic requirements and that we can identify suitable supervisors and industry advisers for every project by September. If you have a possible project you may want to propose, or would like to know more about the capstone course at York, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours faithfully,

Franz Newland (ESSE), Hossam Sadek (Mechanical), James Smith (EECS)


York Athabasca Jack Pine Tower Field Work Update

At approximately 100 ft,  the tower reaches as high as the surrounding canopy. (Photo Credit: Mark Gordon)

At approximately 100 ft,
the tower reaches as high as the surrounding canopy.
(Photo Credit: Mark Gordon)

Earth and Space Science Masters student Tim (Kaiti) Jiang and supervisor Mark Gordon spent the last two weeks of July installing an instrumented 30m tall telescoping  tower in Northern Alberta.

The York Athabasca Jack Pine (YAJP) tower is situated in the middle of the boreal forest north of Fort McMurray, surrounded by oil sands mining and upgrading  facilities.  Measurements on the tower include aerosols, black carbon, dust and particulate, ozone, CO2, radiation (PAR, UV, SW, and LW), temperature, moisture, winds, and turbulence.

The tower will remain in the forest for at least a year and will send data back to York with a cellular modem.  This study will help us understand how pollutants from the oil sands facilities interact with the forest environment and how turbulence and pollutant mixing develops in forest canopies.

Featured image: MSc student Tim Jiang and contractor Mike Solohub prepare to install the tower.

By: Mark Gordon

Tim works to set up instruments and download data at the tower base.  (Photo Credit: Mark Gordon)

Tim works to set up instruments and download data at the tower base.
(Photo Credit: Mark Gordon)


Talking Mars in Montréal

Sandy Selfie Sent from NASA Mars Rover (Photo Credit: NASA)

From July 17-19, three members of Prof. John Moores’ Planetary Volatiles Laboratory – PDF Dr. Christina Smith, MSc. Candidate Charissa Campbell and Undergraduate Researcher Brittney Cooper – attended the semi-annual Science Team Meeting of the Mars Science Laboratory Rover (better known as Curiosity). For the first time since Curiosity’s successful landing in August of 2012 the meeting was back on Canadian soil at the CSA’s headquarters in St. Hubert, just outside of Montréal. Over 400 scientists work on the $2.5 Billion mission, supporting daily operations, designing experiments using the spacecraft’s 10 primary instruments (plus 12 engineering cameras) and analyzing the data returned. More than 100 of these researchers from around the world made the trek out to the CSA to attend in person.

While the majority of the scientists who work on the mission have a geological focus, there are a few of us who specialize in the modern Martian environment. The particular speciality of the PVL group is atmospheric imaging using the rover’s Engineering Cameras.  Presentations by the York-based group on our results discussing clouds, dust, winds and the chemistry of the atmosphere were well received by other members of the Team. We also identified ways in which the atmospheric scientists and the geologists can work together to enhance our understanding of Martian processes, past and present.

Five years and 17 km into its mission, the rover remains healthy despite some dents, tears and a patina of dust. While the robot is showing its age, with that age comes wisdom. To date, we have published nearly 300 papers including several dozen in high impact venues such as Science, Nature and Geophysical Research Letters. For a sampling of these results, click here. Even as these results continue to pour in, there are still important discoveries that await us as we climb higher still along the flank of Aeolus Mons.

By: John Moores

An Interview: Sandra Sinayuk

img_7472What are your professional aspirations?

As you know, I am going to be starting my MClSc in Audiology this September at Western! I’m not sure yet if I will want to specialize, but I want to work in a hospital setting after I graduate.

What do you like the most about York?

The potato wedges from the Bluemont Bistro. I like all of the friends I’ve made and all of the really nice people that I’ve met in my 4 years here.

Favourite building at York?

The Lassonde building, because it has a Freshii.

Which Lassonde Engineering program would you do if you had to?

Civil, my Mom did Civil ages ago, so she could help me!

Where would you like to travel?

AUSTRALIA – I’ve been in love with it since 1st year and haven’t yet been able to go. Specifically: Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Cairns, Melbourne, and Adelaide. The UK would be really cool too, because of all the castles.

If you were a breakfast cereal, which would you be?

A healthy nutty one, because I’m such a health nut! (haha)

If you were an animal, which would you be?

I would be a quokka, because they are endemic to Australia, so that would basically guarantee me Australian citizenship. They’re cute, so no one would want to hurt me and they’re marsupial, which is basically nature’s C-section.

Three items you would bring on a deserted island (no boats allowed)?

Seeds for fruits and vegetables, sunscreen, and some kind of water desalination system.

What’s your top business idea?

Starting a haunted house with optical illusions in Melbourne (where they don’t have any, according to my Aussie friend) with a cafe dungeon serving all vegan food and drink. Realistically though, I’d rather open a non-profit animal sanctuary because there’s a really big need for those.

What’s your pet peeve?

When people are late, and when I’m late. Also, when people in front of me walk extra-slowly.

Favourite movie: It’s a tie between Cowspiracy (environmental documentary) and What the Health, both are on Netflix!

Favourite fictional character: Fred and George Weasley, they’re hilarious and we would be best friends.

What’s your Harry Potter House? Gryffindor, according to Pottermore.

If you could create a Harry Potter House, what would it be called and which 5 traits would be associated with it?

Deerfox: resilient, honest, curious, sarcastic, fair.

Favourite book (that isn’t Harry Potter): “How not to Die” – it’s a nutrition book.

Favourite tree: The kind that gives me food.

Favourite food/cuisine: Cuisine: vegan food. Dish: the green poutine at Fresh restaurants (french fries, steamed baby bok choy, kale & swiss chard, roasted mushroom gravy, ‘cheese’ sauce, green onions & sunflower seeds)

Crown dish: Nice-cream (non-dairy ice cream).

Favourite quote: “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Instagram: @sanachkaa  tumblr: theherbivore

Ketchup/Mustard/Relish   Mac/PC   Summer/Winter   Coffee/Tea   Sweet/Savory   Heels/flats





WINDII Airglow Observations of Wave Superposition and the Possible Association with Historical “Bright Nights”

Gordon Shepherd and Young-Min Cho recently submitted to Geophysical Research Letters a paper entitled “WINDII Airglow Observations of Wave Superposition and the Possible Association with Historical ‘Bright Nights’” which appeared on July 4th. Bright nights is the name given to those nights which should be dark, with no moon, and yet they are bright enough to allow observers to see their surroundings, or distant objects, or even read a newspaper. These have been reported from Roman times, for example by Pliny the Elder, who wrote, “The phenomenon commonly called “nocturnal sun”, i.e., a light emanating from the sky during the night, has been seen during the consulate of C. Caecilius and Cn. Papirius (~ 113 BCE), and many other times, giving an appearance of day during the night”. These reports continue in the European literature up until World War I, but afterwards fade away as the use of artificial light increases. Limited scientific observations began then, during which the name “bright nights” was applied, but there has never been an explanation of their origin.

The Wind Imaging Interferometer (WINDII) was launched in 1991 and it was seen immediately that the 557.7 nm atomic oxygen airglow was extremely variable, from place to place and one night to the next. This “airglow” emission is caused by the photo-dissociation of O2 in the daytime by solar ultraviolet radiation, followed by the recombination of the atomic oxygen during which the energy released emerges as green line photons. Some years later it was recognized that there might be a relation to “bright nights”, but without any obvious explanation of the mechanism. However, in the meantime there were WINDII studies of the longitudinal wind and airglow intensity variations, leading to a resolution of longitudinal waves 1, 2, 3 and 4, where the number indicates the number of waves around the Earth at a given latitude. Early this year Young-Min discovered that from time to time the peaks in these propagating waves could coincide, causing a large peak in intensity at a given longitude, and that this could explain the bright nights. WINDII observed such events 7% of the time for the whole Earth, but at a given limited location the probability would be only 10% of this, and allowing for full moon periods means that the bright nights would be observed only once per year. The fact that they were reported so frequently centuries ago can be accounted for by the fact that the whole population was living with dark nights and so when a bright night occurred anywhere over land, it would be reported.

Geophysical Research Letters identified this as an article of public interest and created a press release that has kept Gordon busy on the phone and in e-mails since then. The story was picked up by the New York Times, the CBC, and from them by The Guardian, as well as in many other places such as the India Times and Korean newspapers. He also heard from individuals, one in particular who told the story told to him by his grandfather, who was playing football with his friends after dinner in 1908. They played and played and when the grandfather got home he was chastised by his parents for staying up until midnight. He protested that he didn’t know it was midnight as he didn’t have a watch, and it was still light. This experience stayed with him for decades as he didn’t tell it to his grandson (the writer) until much later. Gordon confirmed with the grandson that it was almost certainly a bright night.

The Guardian article can be found here.

The article includes a beautiful photo of the sky (see featured image) at night taken from the Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan, near where Gordon was born – but it is not a bright night. The whole experience has been a surprise to the authors and a bit of a puzzle as to why there is such public interest. Probably it is the historical part, which has a human content, and the fact that bright nights are no longer being seen (at least not reported) owing to the environment change of artificial lights. Like some animal species, perhaps they have gone forever, for the public.

By: Gordon Shepherd


An Update from Ian McDade (2)

Ian McDade is now officially retired with the status of “Senior Scholar”; loving living in Stratford and still using the same email address (


Geomatics Engineering Program Receives Level-2 CBEPS Accreditation

We just received the Canadian Board of Examiners for Professional Surveyors (CBEPS) final report. We are pleased to announce that our Geomatics Engineering program awarded a Level-2 CBEPS accreditation in meeting the CBEPS national syllabus subjects. CBEPS establishes, assesses and certifies the academic qualifications of individuals who apply to become land surveyors and/or geomatics professionals in Canada, except for Ontario and Quebec.

Professional cadastral surveying in Canada is regulated by individual statutes in the ten Canadian provinces and by the Canada Lands Surveys Act for Canada Lands. In general, Canada Lands consist of the Northern Territories, Indian Reserves, National Parks and Canada’s Offshore areas. In order to practice cadastral surveying at the professional level in Canada, an individual must be commissioned and/or licensed by the provincial surveying association in the province where one wishes to practice, and in the case of Canada Lands, by the Association of Canada Lands Surveyors (ACLS).

To get their CBEPS Certificate of Completion, graduates from our Geomatics Engineering program will have to write the CBEPS examinations C10 (Land Use Planning and the Economics of Land Development) and C12 (Hydrographic Surveying).

By: Costas Armenakis

An Interview: Prof. Jinjun Shan

Prof. Jinjun Shan (Photo credit: Lassonde School of Engineering)

Prof. Jinjun Shan
(Photo credit: Lassonde School of Engineering)

What is your educational background?

I have obtained all of my degrees – B.Eng., M.Eng., and Ph.D. – from Harbin Institute of Technology in China. Prior to coming to York, I worked as a PDF at University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace studies (UTIAS).

What is your most memorable project?

It is definitely the balloon flight (two flights actually – in Sweden and Australia). I’m a space engineer, mostly working on theoretical topics. The balloon project was the first time I developed and flew an actual instrument in a real space mission.

If you could create any course at York, which course would you create?

I’d create an advanced dynamics control course. When I was a graduate student, I had to take two courses on this topic; UofT students take two courses as well. Similarly, in my undergrad, I had a whole year course on dynamics control of spacecraft. Yet, at York, we only have 1 term of dynamics and control for Space Engineering students – this is definitely not enough. In addition, we only teach classical control systems, but it is just the first step – we need to add modern control systems to the curriculum.

Which part of teaching is most exciting to you?

I’m happy if I can teach a student something “hands on”, and they can solve a problem with something they learned from the class – whether it is dynamics, control, or electronics.

What do you like/dislike about York the most?

Like: York gives me an opportunity to do my own research.

Dislike: It is too slow: the processes are too slow; if you need something, you have to ask for it too many times; we don’t have concrete policies for many things.

What do you like/dislike about York the most?

Like: York gives me an opportunity to do my own research.

Dislike: It is too slow: the processes are too slow; if you need something, you have to ask for it too many times; we don’t have concrete policies for many things.

Favourite building at York?

Petrie, because my office and lab are here. It is also better than most buildings in terms of the size and air conditioning.

Favourite quote?

“The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Chinese Proverb

Favourite Lassonde color?  Yellow

Favourite food?  Noodles

Favourite movie? I like “Transformers” – I have watched all of them with my son.

Favourite book? My favourite book is Three Kingdoms.

What do you do in your free time?

I like playing badminton.

If you could be any age, which age would you choose and why?

My son’s age, 10-12 years old, because you don’t have to worry about anything and can simply enjoy your life.

Where would you like to travel to?

I have travelled a lot for my work. Previously, I wanted to go to Australia the most, but I have already travelled there for the balloon flight. Now, I’d like to go to South America (Brazil, Argentina), since I have still never been there.

Bucket list items?

I want to travel as much as possible.

Choose one:

Summer/Winter Apple/PC Star Wars/Star Trek Ketchup/Mustard