An Interview: Prof. William Colgan

What is your educational background?

I did my undergrad at Queens University in Biology and Geography. Then I moved on to University of Alberta for my Masters degree in Atmospheric Science. This is where I got hooked on the ice cores! Finally, I completed my Ph. D. at University of Colorado on the topic “The Influence of the Melt Water in the Greenland Ice Sheet”.

CSA recently issued a call for applicants for the next round of astronauts to train for future NASA missions, and you were among them. Why?

To further increase my career enjoyment—it seemed  like the only thing to be more fun than a 30 day expedition on Greenland ice sheets is going to space! I have not made top 160 candidates, but it’s expected not to get selected; just applying for something like this is a fun daydream for most people.

What did you like the most about your recent expedition to Greenland? The least?

The most: the scenery! It felt like living in an IMAX movie for a month: big wide open spaces, which are so different form the city, flying around in little planes…

The least: living in a clod tent. Since undergrad, I have spent 347 days in the cold tent North or South of Arctic or Antarctic circles respectively.

Are you planning on any expeditions any time soon?

Yes, I am going to Greenland again next spring.

I am actually leaving Lassonde soon—I’m going on to geological survey of Denmark and Greenland (this time I’m going to live in a coastal village rather than a cold tent!). However, I am hoping to hold an adjunct position at York in the new year and to keep in touch with everyone. I am from Toronto myself, so I will be coming back fairly often. This is definitely not a good bye!

Favorite building at York?

York Lanes. I like being around people, and it is the busiest place on campus, which feels the most alive. It is also the most useful functionally.

Prof. Colgan was recently featured in the YorkU Magazine. (

Prof. Colgan was recently featured in the YorkU Magazine.

What’s your pet peeve?

Paper work: completing layers and layers of forms makes me sad!

Favorite quote?

“Do or do not, there is no try.” – Yoda

Favorite color?


Favorite food?  

Nepalese food.

Favorite movie?

“Archer” on Netflix; it is an adult cartoon about the undercover spy. Becoming Sterling Archer of Glaciology is my noble career goal.

What do you do in your free time?

I do some photography. I also like reading, mostly newspapers lately.

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

Twenty seven, because it is a trinomial—3x3x3 years old! It was also a nice time after university education and before the real world hit and serious responsibilities started.

Interesting fact about yourself?

I have travelled a lot: I’ve been to 22 countries, and lived abroad Canada for 8 years. This gives you quite a different outlook on Canadian society.

Summer/Winter, Apple/PC, Coffee/Tea, Start Wars/ Star Trek, Ketchup/Mustard

We are wishing Prof. Colgan good luck in his future endeavors!




Julien Li-Chee-Ming Awards the 2nd Place in Student Papers Competition

Unmanned Systems Canada awards were presented at the 14th annual Unmanned Systems Conference held in Edmonton AB on November 1st-3rd, 2016. York University graduate student Julien Li-Chee-Ming has received the well-deserved 2nd place in the Student Papers Competition. Couple years ago, Julien has received the 1st place award in the same competition.

Student Papers Competition is open to all Canadian full time undergraduate and graduate students. The paper has to demonstrate research into any aspect related to Unmanned Vehicle systems. Here is the summary of Julien’s award-winning paper:

The GeoICT Lab at York University is developing a mapping and tracking system based on the Arducopter UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) that can accurately navigate waypoints in indoor and GPS-denied outdoor environments. A method is proposed to estimate the UAV’s pose (i.e., the 3D position and orientation of the camera sensor) in real-time using only the on-board RGB camera as the UAV travels through a known 3D environment (i.e., a 3D CAD model is available).  Linear features are automatically matched between images collected by the UAV’s onboard RGB camera and the 3D model of the environment.  The matched lines from the 3D model serve as ground control to estimate the camera pose in real-time via line-based space resection.  The results demonstrate a significant improvement from the state-of-art alternative in 3D model-based pose estimation.

Congratulations to Julien! (on the right) (

Congratulations to Julien! (on the right)

UAV Campaign

Highlights from the UAV Campaign by Dr. Regina Lee’s research team:

Video by: Thong Thai

Music: DEAF KEV Invincible

Editor: Loan and Tetiana Sitiugina

ESSE Technician Jennifer Gao: An Interview

Full name: Yuan Gao, but you can call me Jennifer, because it is easier to pronounce.

What is your educational background? I have a bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering back in China.

What is your favorite part of ESSE labs? I have a lot of favorite parts, as I enjoy my job a lot. I like talking to professors and always learning something new. Also, I like seeing students everyday, as they approach graduation. It makes me feel younger and brings me back years and years ago, to the times when I was a university student myself.

What is your most memorable project? I always find it exciting to make things work. My most memorable project was back in China, something that nobody has done before in the country. It was a complicated RF reader system used at an airplane to guide it.

Favorite building at York? I’ve only been to Petrie and Bergeron, but Bergeron is my favorite!

What’s your pet peeve? I don’t like wasting time listening to something I am not interested in—for example, at meetings.

Favorite quote? If you want to reach your goal, you have to move, no matter in which direction, and not just think about it.

Favorite color? Red.

Favorite food?  Fries and sea food.

Favorite movie? “Gone with the Wind” and “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn.

What do you do in your free time? I like reading a lot. If the weather is nice, I go outside to the park… With the book!

If you could be any age, which age would you choose? I don’t care about the age, as long as I’m healthy and can take care of myself.


Summer/Winter, Apple/PC, Coffee/Tea, Heels/Flats, Ketchup/Mustard/Relish.


Modelling Marine Boundary-Layer Fog Development over Changes in Surface Conditions

Peter Taylor’s research group have a new 6-month NSERC-ENGAGE grant (Started Oct. 1, 2016) with AMEC Foster Wheeler to study fog over the Grand Banks. Dr. Wensong Weng and Adjunct Professor George Isaac will be involved. The proposal summary is:

“Marine fog over the Grand Banks offshore from Newfoundland and in other marine areas is a significant problem for many activities, but especially for helicopter landings on oil rigs. The fog may extend upwards from the sea surface to heights of the order  of 100m to 300m, and it is important to understand the processes and conditions that determine the evolution, opacity, and depth of the fog layer. In many instances, fog formation is associated with winds blowing air over changes in surface temperature.

These advective fogs have some similarities with the radiation fogs that are common over land, but have added complications associated with internal boundary layer development. There has been considerable activity in the development of 1-D (horizontally homogeneous) time-dependent fog models, including detailed treatment of micro-physical and radiative processes and turbulent transports. There has been rather less activity related to advection fogs, but papers by Nakanishi and Niino (2006) and by Barker (1976) provide a good starting point for us.

Dr. Taylor’s group at York University has undertaken extensive research on atmospheric boundary-layer models, including studies of flow over changes in surface roughness, temperature and humidity, taking account of the impacts of stratification on turbulence via Monin-Obukhov similarity theory. They have also modeled blowing dust and blowing snow with multiple size bins, sublimation and settling, plus visibility issues, which will provide the basis for the development of a superior boundary-layer fog model. The initial research plan will be to adapt our models of turbulent atmospheric (planetary) boundary-layer over changes in surface conditions to deal with situations where spatial variations in water surface temperature lead to situations where water vapor can condense and form fog. Details of the evolution of the fog droplet size distribution and radiative and visibility impacts will be added, and variations with wind speed and the horizontal rates of change will be investigated. On a longer term basis, we will seek ways to combine these findings with weather forecast models in order to improve practical forecasting of fog occurrence, depth and intensity.”

by Dr. Peter Taylor

2016 KASA Balloon Campaign in Kiruna, Sweden


In the first week of September 2016, three Canadian payloads flew on a stratospheric balloon that performed a 10-hour mission at an altitude of 34 km in Kiruna, Sweden. The primary payload, 2-D Imaging Fabry-Pérot Spectrometer, is jointly developed by York University and MPB Communications Inc., the Fabry-Pérot spectrometer can obtain very high spectral resolution measurements. It views sunlight that is absorbed and scattered by the atmosphere and reflected by the Earth’s surface. This provides information on aerosols, surface pressure and surface albedo. Dr. Jinjun Shan, Professor of Space Engineering in ESSE is the principal investigator (PI) of this project funded by the Canadian Space Agency, under its Flights for the Advancement of Science and Technology (FAST) program in 2014. Dr. Gordon Shepherd and Dr. Chris Sioris from ESSE are the Co-Is of this project. A group of science and engineering researchers have contributed to the development of this instrument.

The stratospheric balloon took off few minutes before 7am local time (1 am EDT) on Saturday September 3 at Esrange Space Center, near Kiruna, Sweden. It landed around 2:15pm in Northern Finland, and the instrument was successfully recovered before 8pm. Observation data analysis is still on going, but the flight mission has been very successful. During the 8-hour flight, key technologies of Fabry-Pérot spectrometer have been demonstrated and validated. Those technologies could readily be implemented on a future satellite mission.

by Dr. Jinjun Shan                                                                                                                               Images provided by Dr. Jinjun Shan


Photo of York/CSA team with FPS instrument. From left to right: Prof. Jinjun Shan (York), Mr. Steeve Montminy (CSA), Dr. Ryan Orszulik (University of Magdeburg, Germany), Dr. Chris Sioris (York), Mohammed Kagalwala (York), Mike Voutsogiannakis (York), Dr. Yuan Ren (York), and Philippe Vincent (CSA).

OSIRIS REX Asteroid Mission Launch

On September 8th, NASA’s OSIRIS REX (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security and Regolith Explorer) mission was launched successfully from Cape Canaveral. It took off at  7.05pm EST.

With the funding by the Canadian Space Agency, Professor Mike Daly has been the lead researcher behind the OLA laser altimeter. The high-powered laser will be used to map asteroid Bennu as part of the mission’s goal to bring a sample back to Earth. The mission is scheduled to be completed in 2022.

On the day of the launch, Lassonde has hosted a celebration, where York University leaders, Lassonde faculty members, students, alumni, and industry participants have given remarks about space engineering research.


Osiris-REX is bound for asteroid Bennu (

Astronaut Jeremy Hansen Visits York

On October 12th, 2016, a modern day space explorer Jeremy Hansen has visited Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence to talk about his life as an astronaut, astronomy, and following your dreams.
Jeremy has wanted to be an astronaut for as long as he can remember and began flying at the age of 17; he eventually became a CF-18 fighter pilot.

Lassonde students met the astronaut Jeremy Hansen. (

Lassonde students met the astronaut Jeremy Hansen.

In 2009, he went on to be selected by the CSA from a pool of over 5,300 candidates to become one of two Canadian astronauts. Since then, his intensive astronaut training has included an abundance of out-of-this-world experiences like geological expeditions in the High Arctic, exploring alien caves, and conducting scientific experiments in weightlessness.

The event was emceed by two space engineering students, Sogand Talebi and Semi Hasaj.

by  Amal Dave



ESS Atmospheric Science Research Group

In addition to meetings of specialized research teams, several of the Atmospheric Science faculty thought that it would be useful to organize monthly meetings of as many atmospheric science researchers (faculty, RAs, grad students and others) as are interested.

The first meeting was held at lunchtime on September 22nd, and a second is provisionally planned for October 20th.

In addition to pizza and informal discussions, the aim is to include some short scientific presentations. In September, Peter Taylor talked about the O-QNet wind profilers, NARR and upper level winds, and Cliford Ndiweni talked about emissions from oils sands tailings ponds.

At present, Peter Taylor ( is organizing these, so if you want to be added to the mailing list, offer talks, etc. please contact him, ideally with a subject line: “ESS Atmospheric Research Group Meetings”

by  Dr. Peter Taylor


ESSE Geomatics Professor explains Pokemon Go

ESSE’s Dr. Sunil Bisnath explains the mechanisms behind Niantic’s Pokemon Go, an augmented reality game, from a Geomatics perspective in this video by the Lassonde School of Engineering.