Connaught PhDs for Public Impact Fellows
Ben Li is a vascular surgery resident and PhD student at the Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto. His research focuses on using machine learning to predict outcomes in patients undergoing major vascular surgery.
Ben has published over 40 peer-reviewed papers, given over 40 conference presentations, and received over $600,000 in research funding from sources including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Ontario Ministry of Health, and University of Toronto.
As a Connaught PhDs for Public Impact Fellow, Ben hopes to learn how to apply advanced machine learning technology to health care in a way that achieves meaningful public impact.
Vascular surgery patients are at high risk for complications given their significant comorbidities and the nature of their operations involving major vascular systems. Up to 30% of patients undergoing vascular surgery will suffer an adverse event, which remains among the highest for all surgical patients. Current tools for predicting post-operative outcomes are limited by the need to manually input data, non-specificity to high-risk populations, and lack of long-term predictions. My goal is to develop automated machine learning (ML) algorithms that use pre-operative patient characteristics to predict peri-operative and long-term outcomes following major vascular surgery.
I plan to achieve this goal by working with a multidisciplinary team of data scientists, engineers, and clinicians to train ML algorithms using a variety of data sources including local hospital electronic health records, population-level administrative data, and national/international vascular surgery registries. Through this work, we will develop rigorous and versatile ML algorithms applicable to patients locally, provincially, across Canada, and around the world. These risk prediction tools can be deployed into clinical practice to identify high-risk individuals and mitigate adverse events by guiding patient selection for surgical interventions and peri-operative management, ultimately improving outcomes for vascular surgery patients.
Farah is a Ph.D. candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Her thesis examines the work of being a patient with chronic conditions of low Socioeconomic status and how to use technology better to reduce patients’ workload.
Farah is also currently a research associate at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine where her work focuses on trauma-informed interventions for individuals with complex PTSD and substance use disorder, opioid-agonist treatment patterns among northern communities and secondary data analysis.
Her long-term research goal is to develop a research program in the field of patient-centred technology innovation. To broaden the scope of patent-centered technology design, she is interested in bringing a sociological lens in technology research to explore how structural and social factors shape digital divide and health inequity in Canadian settings and globally.
With the emergence of Covid-19 and the subsequent rapid adoption of telehealth in the primary care, it is recognized that systematically marginalized populations often experience heavy burden while using health technologies due to systematic barriers and having poorer access to resources. However, since treatment burden is a novel topic in the healthcare lexicon, many patients and providers do not know how to engage in a conversation about treatment burden.This can lead to inappropriate use of telehealth, resulting in negative health outcomes.
During my fellowship, I intend to create a series of animation series to engage the public in the conversation about the concept of treatment burden, and telehealth equity. To do so, I will create a series of animated videos on this topic. I will collaborate with patients, health professionals, and policymakers to co-design this animated series. During this co-design process, the participants can decide which topics need to be highlighted in the series and how to deliver key information. In order to reach a broad audience, I will post this series on organizational websites (e.g., community health center websites) and social media.
Joseph Sebastian is a PhD Candidate, Vanier Scholar, and incoming Massey College Junior Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Craig A. Simmons, focusing on the application of biomedical ultrasound imaging in regenerative medicine for pre-clinical research. His work uses ultrasound to non-invasively probe the acoustic, mechanical, and contractile properties of hearts-on-chips, an alternative to animal models in pre-clinical cardiac drug testing. Joseph has authored >15 publications in top international journals such as The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Biomaterials, and Photoacoustics and received >300K in competitive research funding. Joseph’s tenure of the Connaught PhD for Public Impact Fellowship will focus on public communication of his interdisciplinary work in pre-clinical drug testing and public education on the alternatives to animal studies for pre-clinical drug testing.
Joseph is passionate about mentorship, acting as a Residence Life Staff at the University of St. Michael’s College; pedagogy, serving as a teaching assistant for >20 undergraduate courses in the FASE; and extra-curricular leadership, acting as the Director for Professional Relations at the Graduate Management Consulting Association. Outside of academia, Joseph is a triathlete, marathon runner, tennis player, violinist, and classically trained baritone.
Current cardiac drug screening and testing methods lack the power to eliminate ineffective and harmful drug candidates to treat heart failure. Miniaturized three-dimensional heart models show great promise to better mimic human biology, disease, and drug responses. My research aims to use a new type of ultrasound imaging to identify drugs that can reverse cardiac stiffening and arrythmias, pre-cursors to heart failure, in a miniature heart model. Current contractile and stiffness measurement techniques for miniature heart models are invasive, low-throughput, and incapable of long-term monitoring as they remove the heart model from its biological environment.
To address these limitations, we are developing a non-invasive ultrasound system to assess the contractile function and stiffness of miniature heart models without disturbing the model. Ultimately, we expect the ultrasound system to have broad applications for non-invasive contractile and mechanical assessment of different types of heart models, from single muscle cells to engineered heart tissues, assisting researchers with screening the most appropriate drugs for heart failure treatment before testing them on Canadians.
Juan Carlos Jimenez
Juan Carlos Jimenez is a PhD Student in Human Geography at the University of Toronto’s Department of Geography and Planning. His research focuses on youth migration, youth activism, and rural livelihoods in El Salvador, examining the economic and environmental processes shaping life trajectories, and the emotional geographies of trauma in the aftermath of civil war, neoliberal post-war reconstruction, and displacement. Juan Carlos is currently working on two SSHRC funded research projects. First, through the ‘Surviving Memory in Post-War El Salvador’ research project at Western University, which is an international research collaboration documenting the history of the Salvadorian Civil War (1980-1992) and preventing future violence, using decolonial and participatory methodologies and engaging community-driven research projects with survivors of historic violence. Second, through the project entitled ‘Index-Based Agricultural Insurance, Climate Vulnerability, and Food Security in Rural El Salvador’ with Dr. Ryan Isakson, which evaluates agrarian livelihoods under the combined stressors of climatic and economic crises, and the role of microfinancing and climate insurance for smallholder farmers in contributing to climate resilience.
As a community-based researcher, Juan Carlos works with the young Central American people in Canada to explore experiences with migration, the legacies of the civil war, and community responses to trauma using arts-based methods. Juan Carlos has worked in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Canada in community driven initiatives.
Catalyzed by gang violence, political instability, poverty, and climate change, the recent influx of Central American migrants to the United States has thrust the region into the spotlight. Tapping into this popular imaginary, my research will analyze the exodus of young actors from rural settings in El Salvador, giving attention to the motivations to migrate as well as the hardships and trauma emerging from leaving home and forming trans local lives. I will be working in the municipalities of San Jose las Flores, Nueva Trinidad, and Arcatao, in the department of Chalatenango. These areas witnessed severe conflict during the Salvadorian Civil War (1980-1992), with residents fleeing to neighbouring Honduras to refugee camps and repopulating the area in the late 1980s.
With this Connaught Fellowship, I will be facilitating a Photovoice project with rural youth in these three municipalities. Photovoice is a research method that brings participants together to analyze community strengthens, barriers, and hardships using photography and written reflections. Participants then collectively reflect on these issues and plan social actions to respond to these hardships. I will be facilitating Photovoice workshops with young people who have stayed in place, and online with young people who have migrated to urban centers or the United States. My goal is to facilitate transnational dialogues around youth migration, mental health, and community activism, and the economic, social, and climatic realities that shape decision to migrate or stay-in-place. This project will culminate in the organizing of public showcases of these arts-pieces and creation of a Photovoice booklet for residents and policymakers.
Madalyn Hay is a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science. She holds a BAH in Contemporary Studies and Classics from the University of King’s College, Halifax, and an MA in Political Theory from the University of Chicago.
Madalyn’s doctoral research is on urban land use and the role that Community Land Trusts (CLTs) play in ensuring equitable, sustainable, and inclusive urban development. Her research investigates the social and political benefits that CLTs provide through subjecting land use to community based democratic governance. Her work also seeks to better understand collective forms of property ownership and how they challenge dominant paradigms of private property and neoliberal urbanism.
Though Madalyn mainly works within Political Theory, her research transcends narrow disciplinary boundaries, drawing on Comparative Politics, Human Geography, Urban Studies, and Legal Theory. Her method is largely inspired by Grounded Normative Theory which aims to produce theoretically robust and empirically informed frameworks to make sense of contemporary political practices.
As cities all over the world face a housing affordability crisis, Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are gaining recognition as attractive models for ensuring perpetually affordable housing in urban centers. While the economic benefits of the CLT model are clear, the social and political benefits are less so. Madalyn’s research is therefore concerned with how CLTs promote social solidarity and participatory democracy and the implications of this for urban development. What kind of democratic practices and social relationships are created by CLTs and how do they promote community empowerment? Furthermore, how might CLTs challenge dominant paradigms of neoliberal urbanism to promote more equitable, sustainable, and inclusive urban development?
Madalyn’s research will contribute to the understanding of how CLTs create alternative urban governance structures that prioritize community needs and participation and deliver economic, social, and political benefits. By paying specific attention to the social and political benefits of CLTs, Madalyn’s research will contribute to the broader discourse on the right to the city.
Michelle WY Tam (she/her) is a PhD Candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, a SSHRC Doctoral Fellow (2021-2024), and a Connaught Public Impact Fellow (2023-2024). Michelle holds a Master of Arts in Gender Studies from Queen’s University. Her doctoral research is focused on assisted reproductive technologies and access for racialized sexual and gender minority people. Her research interests include LGBTQ2S+ health, sexual and reproductive health, reproductive technologies, reproductive justice, critical race theory, queer theory, mixed-methods, and qualitative research. Additionally, Michelle is a research team member of the Re:searching for LGBTQ+ Health Team, University of Toronto, and a Clinical Research Coordinator at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).
This project aims to understand experiences of accessing assisted reproductive technologies (ART) for 2SLGBTQIA+ Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) seeking to expand their families. It is estimated that more than 25% of fertility clinic users in urban areas of Canada identify as 2SLGBTQIA+. Inequitable ART (e.g., invitro fertilization, insemination, and surrogacy) access for 2SLGBTQ+ communities has been evidenced, yet scant research has examined the complex experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ BIPOC communities. Using a reproductive justice approach, which argues that intersecting identities and experiences of inequalities shape decision making around reproduction, we will investigate the experiences of reproductive access for 2SLGBTQIA+ BIPOC people. This project will examine clinical practices as well as policies, regulations, and laws surrounding ART.
We will conduct interviews with 2SLGBTQIA+ BIPOC people who have undergone or were seeking ART in Ontario, Canada. Additionally, we will conduct interviews with key informants who have been involved with the medical and/or legal processes of ART.
Findings from this study have the potential to impact policies and practices for 2SLGBTQIA+ BIPOC communities in ways that more effectively address their reproductive needs and pathways to family expansion.
Markelle (she/they) is a third year PhD student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology under the supervision of Dr. Nicholas Mandrak at the Scarborough campus. They are of settler descent, growing up in central Ontario.
Their research focuses on fish conservation, specifically comparing the efficiency of fish community sampling methods in partnership with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Markelle’s projects follow SON guidelines on working together in an ethical space, while considering both Western and Indigenous Ecological Knowledge systems.
Markelle enjoys volunteering with U of T science communication groups and literacy organizations. The rest of their time is spent playing sports outdoors.
Previous work has included investigating impacts of wastewater effluent on fish behaviour and zooplankton assemblages at McMaster University.
Robert Masaki Hechler is a Japanese Canadian and German PhD student working with Dr. Martin Krkosek at University of Toronto’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He is broadly interested in understanding how environmental stressors impact biodiversity and does so using a combination of experimental, field, molecular and bioinformatic approaches. Robert obtained a BSc from the University of British Columbia and MSc from McGill University, where he developed a non-invasive method of monitoring biodiversity health using the genetic material organisms shed into the environment. Robert is also an active community member who led the creation of a U of T research award for racialized undergraduates evaluated on research motivation and skills gained through lived experiences, rather than GPA.
Monitoring the health of organisms via genetic analyses is crucial for biodiversity conservation, but conventionally requires intensive animal handling and tissue sampling. Experimental work demonstrates that genetic material naturally shed by organisms into the environment can serve as a non-invasive alternative to conventional tissue samples, but this remains to be tested in nature. My project investigates whether this environmental RNA (eRNA) can reveal the health status of wild Pacific salmon by comparing signals of salmon tissue to that of eRNA from stream water. This work is conducted in collaboration with the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Fisheries Group and is of local importance as it provides insights into the health of salmon in Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw watersheds. As all organisms shed genetic material into the environment, eRNA also has potential applications beyond salmon and could enable researchers to broadly monitor biodiversity health in response to environmental change.
Ryan Marks is a PhD candidate in Molecular Genetics at the Hospital for Sick Children. His research focuses on developing translational applications of CRISPR-mediated genome editing for the treatment of paediatric neuromuscular conditions, with a primary interest in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Prior to his doctoral training, Ryan completed both a BSc(H) in Life Sciences with Distinction and a Canadian Institutes of Health Research-funded MSc in Immunology at Queen’s University. Ryan has published high-impact papers demonstrating the preclinical efficacy of various CRISPR genome editing strategies and is actively involved with Cure Rare Disease, a non-profit biotechnology organization spearheading clinical trials of CRISPR therapies for rare genetic disease. He is a passionate educator who enjoys mentoring students both in the laboratory and through his teaching appointments, as well as engaging patients and families with the latest advancements in his field. He plans to use this fellowship as an opportunity to further advocate for rare disease patients and to advise on policy that facilitates equitable and ethical implementation of genome editing technologies as they transition into clinical application.
Our team has made significant progress in the development of CRISPR genome editing approaches for the treatment of paediatric genetic conditions. CRISPR is a programmable DNA-cutting enzyme developed to function similarly to a set of “molecular scissors” allowing geneticists to excise regions of DNA responsible for causing genetic disease to provide a permanent, potentially curative intervention. While CRISPR has revolutionized the way we think about treating genetic disease, the utility of the technology is limited by our inability to perform more refined therapeutic manipulation of the genome.
Prime editing is a CRISPR-derived genome editing technology capable of precisely introducing all types of small DNA insertions, deletions, and substitutions—we now have tools that allow us to directly rewrite sequence changes into the genetic code. Our study involves engineering the prime editor complex to improve its compatibility with clinically validated viral delivery methods, in addition to systematically enhancing the expression, stability, and efficiency of prime editing. Our ultimate goal is to demonstrate the preclinical efficacy of prime editing to correct patient-representative mouse models of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This proof-of-concept study will yield significant improvements in genome editing fidelity and safety, with broader implications for the treatment of disease-causing variants in many conditions beyond Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Shanna Peltier (she/her) is a proud Anishinaabe kwe who grew up in Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory located on the beautiful Mnidoo Mnis (Manitoulin Island), Ontario. Shanna is a Ph.D. candidate in the School and Clinical Child Psychology program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education – University of Toronto.
Shanna is a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Vanier Scholar (2020-2023) in Societal and Cultural Dimensions of Health, and she recently became a Connaught Public Impact Fellow (2023-2024). Her research seeks to give rise to culturally considerate and socio-politically entangled theories of complex death, namely Indigenous suicide. She aims to co-generate Indigenous community-led social actions on complex death, which address colonial violence and promote wellbeing. Her doctoral dissertation aims to explore how the Anishinaabe health philosophy of mino-bimaadiziwin – “Good Living/The Good Life” – may prevent suicide and promote life within Indigenous communities. Shanna is a research assistant within the Critical Health and Social Action Lab, wherein she works closely with the Network Environments for Indigenous Health Research (NEIHR) Ontario.
Sophie is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her main research interests lie at the intersection of cultural and political sociology, feminist and critical race studies, and the sociology of punishment. She is the recipient of a Canadian Graduate Scholarship (SSHRC), which supports her dissertation project on the commemorative politics of religiously and racially targeted violence in Canada. In addition to her dissertation, Sophie is involved in a number of research projects on responses to mass violence, collective memory, and terrorism. Off campus, she is a board member of the Ligue des droits et libertés—section de Québec and a volunteer organizer for annual commemorations of the 2017 mosque massacre in Québec City. She holds an MA in Sociology from Laval University.
On January 29, 2017, six Muslim worshippers were killed, and five others gravely wounded when a white man opened fire at the Québec City Islamic Cultural Centre, shortly after the end of evening prayers. Four years later, on June 6, 2021, four members of a Muslim family were killed while they were taking an evening walk in their London, Ontario neighbourhood. The assailant, a young white man at the wheel of a truck, is alleged to have targeted them because of their faith. These massacres are part of what activists and scholars have denounced as a surge in attacks against racial and religious minorities in Canada.
My dissertation research investigates public responses to these targeted attacks, with a focus on commemorations of anti-Muslim violence in recent Canadian history. More specifically, I aim to understand 1) how and why different actors mobilize around distinct memory projects of these attacks, and 2) what competing worldviews, solidarities, and political agendas these actors promote or reject. This line of inquiry builds on recent scholarship in cultural and political sociology that investigates sociopolitical tensions and conflicts through the study of commemoration. My research aims to contribute to this literature by interrogating the transformative potential of commemorative efforts in building solidarities and tackling deep-rooted exclusions in the aftermath of racially or religiously targeted massacres.
Travonne Edwards is an assistant professor in the School of Child and Youth Care at Toronto Metropolitan University. He is also a fitfth-year PhD of Social Work Candidate in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work program at the University of Toronto. He currently holds an advanced diploma in Child and Youth Care (CYC) from Sheridan College, and a Bachelor and Master of Arts in CYC from Toronto Metropolitan University.
Travonne is an experienced critical and community-based youth worker with a demonstrated history of working in various social services related settings including child welfare and protection, education and supportive housing for youth experiencing homelessness. Travonne has been awarded the Doctoral Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council award for his research efforts. His program of research aims to understand how state systems operate and how Black communities experiences them to one day improve their realities and outcomes. He currently works as a project director of a research project which partners with the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid society One Vision One Voice, which is a program led by the Black community to address the overrepresentation and disparities faced by Black Canadians.
Black families regularly endure unhelpful and unnecessary maltreatment referrals to child welfare agencies. There is a widespread and unchallenged belief in child welfare practice that maltreatment reports and subsequent investigations are benign experiences, but evidence to support this belief is limited. Black community members have demonstrated that educators, police, and other professionals who serve young people are disproportionately reporting Black families to child welfare, including families who are not responsible for actual maltreatment.
Presently, Ontario is investigating Black families at disproportionate and disparate rates, and many of these families never receive services or supports after an investigation. These investigations are intrusive activities including home visits and the collection of private information from the investigated family. Though a large proportion of Black families are investigated, less is known about the harm of investigations that do not provide any support (e.g., supervision, service referrals), as well as the threat of apprehension experienced by Black families in these interactions. Given that the disparity of overreporting is known but the impact of unnecessary maltreatment investigations is not, my research project will fill this gap in knowledge.
My research will investigate child protection workers perspectives on the impacts of unnecessary investigations on Black families and how unnecessary investigations shape Black families’ perceptions of the child welfare system. The objective of my research project is to aid in the relational repair between Ontario’s child welfare system and the Black community by providing data that documents the impacts of investigations, and once the impacts are clear, to shift policy and practice amongst the child welfare and allied systems.
Olivia Doggett is a PhD candidate between the Faculty of Information and the School of Environment at the University of Toronto. She is a SSHRC Doctoral Fellow, a Connaught Public Impact Fellow and a Climate Positive Energy Graduate Scholar.
For her dissertation, Olivia uses a mixed methods research design combined with critical design methods to investigate the social, political, and ecological circumstances of how migrant farm labour and agricultural technologies shape large-scale commercial farming practices and to interrogate how these labour production systems can be redirected to support more sustainable and socially equitable agricultural practices. Her research outcomes are directed to promote community-based knowledge sharing and interventions that support migrant farmworkers and alternative growing practices. Prior to her doctoral studies, Olivia worked as a design strategist and researcher in financial and non-profit services. She holds a B.A. in Cultural Studies from McGill University and a Master of Information in Information Systems and User Experience Design from the University of Toronto.
The viability and security of our food systems is a serious concern for the survival of our planet. Faced with projections for worsening climate change impacts, increased food insecurity, and a widening labour shortage, the Canadian government is turning to agricultural technologies (agtech) as a means of addressing imminent and critical food system challenges. My dissertation investigates this current landscape, focusing specifically on the social, political, and ecological circumstances of how migrant farm labour and agtech shape farming practices in Canada, and how these labour systems may be redirected to support sustainable and equitable food systems.
Throughout the Connaught PhDs for Public Impact Fellowship Program, I will coordinate a series of participatory design workshops with migrant farmers, growers, technologists and policy makers. Through these workshops, I hope to identify policy and design recommendations and interventions for agtech that are inclusive of migrant farmer expertise and values, and that support sustainable, localized agricultural practices.
Wumi Asubiaro Dada
Omowumi Asubiaro Dada (Wumi) is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies. Prior to her Ph.D studies, she worked as a human rights lawyer on issues of social inequality, gender-based violence and inclusion. She received a Bachelor of Laws degree from Lagos State University, Nigeria, was called to the Nigerian Bar, and obtained a Master of Law Degree from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Wumi has worked in law and public policy for the past 21 years to design and manage projects for non-governmental organisations, government agencies and international development agencies. As a feminist, she makes significant personal and technical contributions to the women’s movement in Nigeria and Africa. She co-convenes the Feminist Womanifesto- one of the biggest platforms for feminists organising in Nigeria and sits on the boards of BAOBAB For Women Human Rights, Gatefield Africa, Abode Community Centre (Canada) and the Centre for Redefining Alternative Civic Engagement for Africa.
Wumi’s PhD project advances new understandings of the women’s practices and advances multidimensional understandings of conflict prevention with gender and power at the centre. The project argues that despite women’s exclusion from formal (and even) informal peace building and conflict prevention mechanisms, their preventative practices, often unintelligible to predominant political thought, have the potential to serve unending cycles of conflict in postcolonial states such as Nigeria. The main goal of Wumi’s project is to raise the value of women’s preventative work in conflict situations by reinscribing new practices and norms in government policies and projects.
Yanfei Lu (吕彦霏) is a Ph.D. student at the Linguistics department. Since her Honours BA and MA at Western University, her research has been focusing on revitalizing and documenting the endangered North American Indigenous Language, Oneida.
Yanfei is currently collaborating with the Twatati Adult Oneida Immersion program and the Indigenous Languages Technology project team at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) to develop a digital verb conjugator to help learners acquire Oneida more efficiently.
Yanfei is also a research assistant of the Indigenous Language Revitalization Team at U of T as well as a cohort member of the WhereWeStand project of the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration program at the Toronto Metropolitan University.
Oneida is the language of the Oneida people. It currently has a very small number of native speakers that the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger has marked Oneida as critically endangered. Thousands of years of traditional knowledge of the Oneida people are passed down through language. If the Oneida language is no longer spoken, the survival of various aspects of Oneida art and culture will be threatened as well. Meanwhile, the lack of resources and the significant differences between the structures of Oneida and English pose many challenges for adult learners who are native speakers of English.
The goal of my doctoral research is to help learners acquire Oneida easier, faster, and better by 1) analyzing how adult learners acquire the sentence, word, and sound structures of Oneida; and 2) developing resources and tools based on the interests and needs of the Oneida learners and the Oneida communities.
Ali Greey is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology. Their doctoral research examines queer, trans, and non-binary youth agency and activism in K-12 schools.
In 2021-2022, Ali led the Beyond Bullying Project to study youth gender and sexuality in schools. Ali has also published on the experiences of trans and non-binary athletes and media representations of the Movement for Black Lives.
Ali is the co-editor of two volumes: Justice for Trans Athletes and Trans Athlete Resistance and is a co-author of the forthcoming book Trans Athlete Embodiment.
Ali is a SSHRC-Bombardier scholar and a retired member of the Canadian national Olympic Boxing team. Ali is actively involved with Athlete Ally, a non-profit devoted to advancing LGBTQ2SIA+ inclusion in sport.
Ali is also currently working with TransPulse and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport to assist national sporting organizations in making sport more trans-inclusive.
Ali’s doctoral work examines how K-12 schools are adapting practices that rely on binary understandings of gender (boys/girls) in response to the growing visibility of trans and non-binary youth.
Ali investigates how 1) trans and non-binary youth are reshaping these practices and structures, demanding that their schools accommodate and anticipate trans and non-binary students; and 2) how administrators and teachers are responding to the growing visibility of and activism from trans and non-binary youth in their schools.
Ali will use ethnographic research in two private schools in Toronto, schools in which students, teachers, and administrators are actively grappling with questions of how to accommodate and anticipate the increasing number of out and visible trans and non-binary youth. Youth Advisory Boards (YAB) are also an important part of their research. Ali will consult with 3 YABs throughout project design and dissemination.
Anam Shahil Feroz
Anam Shahil Feroz is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto. She has received her BSc in Nursing and MSc in Health Policy and Management from Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan. Shortly after, she began working actively in the field of public health to address health systems issues of access, affordability, and quality of healthcare services.
Her current topic of research for her Ph.D. is inspired by seeing countless pregnant women die of preeclampsia and eclampsia. Her doctoral research work will contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 3.1 of reducing maternal mortality ratio less than 70 per 100,000 live births and will also provide insights into methods and findings that can be applied to improve maternal health outcomes in other developing countries, that may face similar challenges.
As an early career researcher, she has published 55 papers (21 publications as the first author) in high-impact peer-reviewed journals in the field of maternal health and digital health research.
My Ph.D. research will explore how feasible it is to implement a mobile phone-based telemonitoring program for pregnant women at high risk for preeclampsia in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan.
Phase 1 will focus on the preparation for the feasibility study, including the development of a telemonitoring program using user-centered design principles as well as a comprehensive implementation plan.
Phase 2 will execute the implementation plan and assess the feasibility of implementing the telemonitoring program for high-risk pregnant women. Phase 2 will include 50 pregnant women at high risk for preeclampsia who will monitor blood pressures at home using the provided blood pressure machine and submit the readings and symptoms through the app to receive self-care instructions based on the entered data.
This will be the first study to explore the feasibility of having pregnant women in Pakistan use a telemonitoring system to support high-risk pregnancies. Lessons learned in this feasibility trial will be used to determine the appropriateness of a future large-scale effectiveness trial, as well as how best to implement such a trial.
Andrea Román Alfaro
Andrea is a Peruvian Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Toronto. She is a Vanier Canada Graduate scholar, a Mary H. Beatty fellow, and a Connaught Public Impact Fellow. She holds an M.A. in Sociology from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú and a B.A. in sociology and government from Skidmore College.
Currently, Andrea is working on her dissertation titled, Mothering in the Margins: Violence, care, and survival in Callao. In her dissertation, she examines the dynamics and politics of violence in Callao, Peru, from women’s perspectives. Andrea has published in Spanish and English.
Before her Ph.D., she worked in Peru as a course instructor and researcher, where she taught social science courses and did research on education, gender and inequality. She has published in Social Justice and Curriculum Inquiry. Her current areas of interest include the sociology of violence, punishment, criminalization, gender, and healing.
In November 2021, the Peruvian government declared the district of Callao, Peru, in a state of emergency due to increased criminality for the second time. This policy curtailed constitutional rights, allowing the deployment of the police and military to fight against crime. However, this policy has not changed the conditions that make violence possible since government decisions are based on stereotypes that portray residents as suspicious and violent.
My project seeks to challenge the perceptions of a marginalized urban community in Callao, Peru – perceived as violent – and give young people the tools to define themselves and their community differently. Using drawing, photography, and film, we will work with 25 kids between 10 and 14 to process and express their experiences through art. We will collectively curate an exhibit for community residents and the public. The project encourages participants to challenge how the public perceives their community through creative outputs.
Erin is a PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. Her research focuses on preventing, addressing, and understanding abuse in sport. Her passion for this topic was inspired by her own experience representing Canada at the 2012 Olympic Games in the sport of artistic swimming.
She embodies research to practice approach to her work, which can be seen with her role on the Board of Directors of AthletesCAN, the association of Canadian National Team athletes. In this role, she advocates for National Team athletes within the Canadian sport system to ensure Canadian sport is as athlete-centred as possible. This includes addressing issues of safe sport (abuse and discrimination), athlete representation, and sport policy.
In recent years, there have been several reports of athletes experiencing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in sport. In Canada, athletes from rowing, artistic swimming, bobsled, and gymnastics have spoken publicly about the abusive cultures in their sports. There is limited research on GBV and its effects, particularly on mental health and withdrawal from sport among Canadian youth athletes. My dissertation study intends to fill this gap.
This study will be conducted in two phases. First, an anonymous, online survey will assess the rates of GBV and reported effects (mental health, satisfaction with sport, intent to leave sport). Second, interviews will be conducted with athletes from equity-deserving groups to better understand how identity factors (race, gender, sexual orientation, ability) influence experiences of GBV.
By advancing our understanding of the landscape of GBV in Canadian sport, recommendations for preventing and addressing GBV will be made.
Jaime Grimm is a second-year Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolution under the supervision of Martin Krkosek (U of T) and Andrew Bateman (Pacific Salmon Foundation). As a first-generation university student with mixed European and Manitoba Saulteaux heritage, she grew up in coastal British Columbia.
She is driven by the need to find socially and ecologically-just solutions to wildlife conservation issues, especially in terms of recognizing Indigenous rights and sovereignty. She enjoys being outdoors and in water as much as possible, as well as knitting and reading SciFi.
Prior to beginning Her PhD, she completed a master’s degree in Invasion Ecology from McGill University and worked as a researcher for the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada.
My research uses a combination of field work, environmental DNA analysis, and mathematical modeling to explore the distribution of fish pathogens in coastal British Columbia. By identifying the areas and environmental conditions associated with elevated levels of pathogens, we can better understand and mitigate risks to wild salmon. In addition, this research will inform the spatial management of aquaculture facilities to minimize the spread of disease among farms.
My work takes place in partnership with, and on the unceded lands of many coastal First Nations, including the Ahousaht First Nation, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and the Mowachaht / Muchulaht First Nations. Additional project partners include Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Cedar Coast Field Station.
Madison is a PhD candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar (2019 – 2022) and Connaught Public Impact Fellow (2022 – 2023). Madison is committed to conducting qualitative or mixed methods research in collaboration with community that examines the micro, meso, and macro aspects of a person’s sexuality.
Madison is currently a Course Instructor and the Research Manager of a national working group collating resources on sexuality and disabled youth. She also has experience as a Research Coordinator with Bloorview Research Institute, Ontario HIV Treatment Network, and #CripRitual. During her MSc, she was the Principal Investigator of a community-based research project that evaluated a sexual health education program for Indigenous youth. Madison mobilizes knowledge through scientific and community-facing knowledge products (e.g., art galleries).
Madison’s long-term research goal is to teach and lead research that aims to ensure everyone can thrive as sexual beings.
Access to sexuality resources are critical for the wellbeing of young Canadians. Unfortunately, the needs of some groups of youth are not being met, such as youth with physical disabilities (ywpd). Many ywpd do not receive information related to sexuality and there are limited resources that are disability-specific. Therefore, it is essential to hear from ywpd regarding their experiences and needs for their sexuality.
To do this, we are conducting a community-engaged arts-based study that works with ywpd to explore their sexuality. Intersectionality framework was employed to centre on the experiences of diverse youth (e.g., BIPOC and 2SLGBTQIA+ youth). A virtual adaptation of the method of body mapping was used, which helped 11 ywpd reflect on their sexuality and express themselves through art and conversation.
Findings from this research have the potential to initiate a paradigm shift in how ywpd are perceived, represented, and interacted with as sexual beings.
Maggie is a SSHRC-funded Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information, where she researches the ongoing platformization of the pornography industry. She holds a graduate specialization in Sexual Diversity Studies and is research assistant to the Bonham Sexual Representation Collection, Canada’s largest archive of sex work and adult film history.
Maggie has published work on digital methods, deepfakes, labour governance, and the changing dynamics of porn’s cultural production under platforms. Learn more at internetmaggie.com.
My doctoral research examines transformations in pornography brought about by platforms using the case of Pornhub.com and the site’s parent company MindGeek. Over the past decade, Pornhub and similar sites have influenced popular discourse and transformed production standards in porn. My work considers the development, influence and regulation of massive technology companies that now mediate our entertainment online and manage user data to reconfigure social interactions, cultural production, and work. Using a blend of critical policy and discourse analysis, ethnography, and digital methods, I hope to produce the first comprehensive scholarly review of Pornhub’s operating model and the many competing discourses surrounding it.
Peter Serles is a PhD Candidate, Vanier Scholar, and Course Instructor studying the mechanics of nano-3D printed devices and structures. His research combines nanomechanical design with machine learning, live cell dynamics, and ballistic defence to leverage the high performance of nanomaterials for a wide variety of end applications.
Peter has authored more than 15 peer-reviewed papers in top international journals such as Advanced Materials, Science Advances, and Materials Today and has held research positions with the National Research Council of Canada and the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Lyon.
Peter is a Junior Fellow of Massey College and is an advocate of evidence-informed policy who volunteers with the Canadian Science Policy Centre and the Journal of Science Policy and Governance. He received an M.A.Sc. from the University of Toronto and a B.E.Sc. from Western University where he was awarded the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineers Gold Medal.
Nanoscale-3D printing has revolutionized the design capabilities and flexibility of small-scale structures and devices with feature resolution down to 200 nm recently becoming a reality. This design freedom unlocked by nano-3D printing enables a unique opportunity to create a variety of next-generation functional components for healthcare, electronics, aerospace, or defence applications. These structures and devices range from replicating the local microenvironment that a cell would experience in the brain to help it grow, to ultra-strong and lightweight structures designed by machine learning algorithms that make use of the increased strength of nanoscale materials, to print-in-place electronic devices like accelerometers or gyroscopes for phones and computers.
Through mechanical design, prototyping, and failure analysis, this next generation of small-scale devices can be crafted with superior accuracy and performance enabling wide-reaching impacts in almost every field.
Q. Jane Zhao
Q. Jane Zhao is a Health Services Research PhD student with Dr. Andrew Pinto and the Upstream Lab. Forever compelled by the nuance of story, their work focuses on the intersection of health policy and health equity. Their interests lie in primary care, community-based research, rural health, and the history of medicine. From a policy and evaluation perspective, their thesis will explore the impact of primary care access on health, particularly on people living with complex conditions in rural and remote Ontario.
They are a settler, first-generation immigrant, writer, and climber. They are a recipient of the School of Cities Urban Graduate Student Fellowship Award (2021-2022), a graduate of the Narrative Medicine Masters at Columbia University, and studied neuroscience at McGill University.
Talk to them about Donna Haraway, comics, and climate change.
As an applied health services researcher, I am passionate about using science to illuminate stories of those less heard, whether these are stories of people living with chronic pain or systemic narratives of function (or dysfunction) in Canada’s healthcare system.
For my Connaught Public Impact Fellowship, I am excited to explore the perception of two Toronto communities around Anchor Institutions – public, place-based organizations embedded within cities that “invest in their surrounding communities as a way of doing business.” Building on existing community networks in Northwest Toronto and Scarborough, I aim to engage community members to guide local decision-making and identify local solutions. Both communities are poorer, more racialized, and under-represented in research.
To disseminate my work, I plan to host one community townhall session and launch a website. Drawing on the field of graphic medicine, I also plan to draw a comic to facilitate knowledge translation and share my findings.
Rebecca Lennox is completing a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral research uses focus groups, conversational interviews, and discourse analysis to investigate cis and trans women’s fear of violent crime in urban public places. Rebecca has published on street harassment, gendered public safety, and qualitative research methods.
She holds a Master of Arts in Sociology from Simon Fraser University and a Bachelor of Arts (High Honors) in Sociology and Social Studies from the University of Regina.
Public health messaging (PHM) addressing sexual violence is quotidian in Canada and largely focuses on the actions of prospective violence victims, rather than those of bystanders or perpetrators. While the pervasiveness of victim-centered PHM may have profound impacts on women’s mobility and fear of crime in public places, little is known about how women respond to such messaging.
During my term as a Connaught fellow, I will examine how race, class, and gender intersect to shape women’s responses to gendered safety messaging produced by police, media, and educators. I will focus on the experiences of women marginalized by racism, poverty, and transphobia.
The goal of my research is to produce usable knowledge for policy makers and frontline anti-violence advocates that uncovers the effects of victim-centered safety messaging on diverse women’s mental health and mobility, and that highlights the urgent need for community-based, trauma-informed service provisions for sexual violence survivors.
Rose Schmidt, MPH, is a PhD candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. Her mixed-methods research focuses on harm reduction and trauma-informed approaches to perinatal substance use. She addresses gender-based determents of health inequity and integrates social epidemiological methodology into applied policy research.
The goal of my project is to identify the different trajectories of opioid and opioid agonist treatment (OAT) use during pregnancy and distinguish the elements that lead to these different trajectories. In my mixed-methods thesis, I will conduct a time-series analysis using population-level administrative health data to examine the impact of new clinical policy guidance recommending buprenorphine over methadone and 2) COVID-19 on the uptake of OAT in Ontario. Then, I will conduct qualitative interviews with women to explore the influences on their different trajectories into and out of opioid and OAT use and their ideas for improving services.
My project is guided by a community advisory board. The outcomes will lead to a greater understanding of how factors at multiple levels impact decision-making during pregnancy will help us build the right tools, programs, and supports to save lives.
Roxana Escobar Ñañez
Roxana Escobar Ñañez is a 5th year Human Geography PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. She is an international student from Peru. She has a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and an M.A. in Political Science from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. Since her master’s in Social Justice Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE-UofT), Roxana’s research focuses on the livelihoods of the Afro-Peruvian population in Peru.
Currently, Roxana’s Ph.D. dissertation seeks to understand the ways in which the music and performance of Afro-Peruvian women in Lima have played a significant part in the city’s cultural identity.
In my dissertation, I plan to analyze Afro-Peruvian women’s spatialities in criollo culture to re-center Afro-Peruvian women within Lima’s cultural landscapes. Criollo culture is a mix of popular traditional expressions from the coast of Peru, mainly associated with Lima’s working class. There is an intrinsic relationship between criollo culture and blackness in Peru, which locates Afroperuanas within the Peruvian national imagination. Despite Afro-Peruvian women’s active participation in Lima’s cultural life since the 18th century, their presence in the city’s cultural geographies has been overlooked by the academy and the Peruvian mainstream. My project aims to historize contemporary Afro-Peruvian women’s performance practices in criollo culture as integral to producing urban domestic and public spaces. In documenting the historical and geographical conditions that undergird the production of criollo identity in Lima, I seek to contribute with a study that expands the current understanding of the Black geographies of Latin America.
Sneha Mandhan (she/her) is an urban planner, architect and educator with an interdisciplinary practice in planning, urban design, architecture, design research, and community engagement. She collaborates on city building and engagement projects with Monumental Projects, People Design Co-operative, and the Department of Words and Deeds. She teaches graduate courses in urban design at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, and holds a Master in City Planning from MIT, and an undergraduate degree in architecture from NIT, Bhopal.
Her work focuses on unearthing and incorporating culture into the planning and design of cities. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Planning at the University of Toronto, where she is working to discover and share the stories of banquet halls as important sites of cultural celebration for the South Asian diaspora in the Greater Toronto Area.
Event spaces are integral to the cultural lives of several ethno-cultural communities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). They are shared sites of memory-making and celebration, but have, through regulation, been relegated to some of the most utilitarian and oft-forgotten commercial and industrial parts of the city. Working with the South Asian diaspora in the GTA, my PhD research focuses on documenting the stories of these spaces. Through the Connaught PhDs for Public Impact Fellowship program, I will curate a photo exhibit and write an op-ed that will share the stories of celebration and gathering within these spaces and situate them as sites of living cultural heritage and memory for several immigrant communities within the GTA. The goals of these initiatives are to spread awareness and insert the narrative around the cultural importance of event spaces into the public realm, and ultimately to foster intercultural storytelling through these different mediums.
Tenzin Butsang is a PhD candidate in Social and Behavioural Health Sciences at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. She is a Tibetan settler born on unceded Coast Salish territory.
Tenzin’s research examines the multi-dimensional and interconnected notions of settler colonialism, carcerality, parenthood, health, power, and Indigeneity in the lives of previously incarcerated Indigenous mothers, mother-figures, and Two-Spirit parents in the settler state of Canada.
Wen Yin (Elaine) Cheng
Wen Yin (Elaine) Cheng is a Ph.D. candidate in East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. She received her MSc from University College London. She has 18 years of archaeological experience as a field archaeologist, lab technician, and artifact analyst.
During her MSc research at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, she had the opportunity to expand her archaeological knowledge to incorporate scientific research techniques in archaeometry.
She is currently researching the artisans of the Shang bronze vessel casters through the moulds housed at the Royal Ontario Museum. Her research incorporates archaeological theory, archaeometry, and area study to comprehend the past artisans. Her current goal is to expand and bridge her research on past artisans to include the voices of the descendants of these ancient cultures.
My work will focus on in-person interactions at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and creating a YouTube channel dedicated to presenting the hidden artisans at the ROM. The in-person discussions are central to changing our view of the artifacts displayed in museums, but this is only a part of the more extensive discussion. Inviting artisans and museum curators to interact and present to the public allows for more open dialogue between the public, artisans, and curators.
By incorporating a YouTube channel, we can reach a broader audience and increase public interaction with facilitated online discussions in the comment section. My project will invite artisans to interact with the museum visitors in-person and be interviewed at their workshops through the YouTube channel as a way to bring the world to the ROM.