Seven new faculty members join the Faculty of Science

There are seven new faculty members joining York University’s Faculty of Science, with five in the Department of Chemistry and two in the Department of Biology.

The Faculty of Science welcomes chemistry Professors Chris Caputo, Ryan Hili, Thomas Baumgartner and Cora Young, Assistant Lecturer Derek Jackson, and biology Professors Steven Connor and Assistant Lecturer Nicole Nivillac.

“It is my pleasure to welcome our new faculty members to the Faculty of Science,” said Dean of Science Ray Jayawardhana. “At York Science, we are committed to fostering research and teaching excellence by recruiting outstanding candidates. Our terrific new colleagues will help make the Faculty a destination of choice for top students and aspiring scientists.”

photo of Thomas Baumgartner

Thomas Baumgartner

Thomas Baumgartner
Thomas Baumgartner joins York University’s Department of Chemistry as a full professor. He received his DPhD from the University of Bonn, Germany in 1998 working with Edgar Niecke.

Between 1999 and 2002, Baumgartner was a postdoctoral fellow in the group of Ian Manners at the University of Toronto. In 2002, he started his independent career at the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz and later RWTH-Aachen University, both in Germany.

From 2006 to 2017, he held a faculty position in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Calgary, most recently as full professor. From 2013 to 2017, he also held the position of associate head (research) in the department.

Baumgartner’s research interests involve molecular and supramolecular organophosphorus-conjugated materials, with a focus on sustainable energy-conversion and -storage schemes. He has been recognized with several distinctions, including a Liebig fellowship from the German chemical industry association, an Alberta Ingenuity New Faculty Award, a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Invitation Fellowship and a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

photo of Chris Caputo

Chris Caputo

Chris Caputo
Chris Caputo joins the Department of Chemistry with a research program focus on developing greener and more sustainable chemistry. His primary research focus is to develop new, low-cost catalytic materials derived from readily available main-group elements. These materials will find applications in synthetic chemistry, energy production and organic electronics.

Caputo received an BSc (Hons.) in chemistry from the University of Windsor in 2010. He earned a PhD in chemistry from the University of Toronto, during which time he pioneered the development of highly electrophilic phosphonium Lewis acids and exploited them as catalysts for a number of transformations including C-F bond activation, among others.

After earning his PhD, he became an Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) postdoctoral fellow with Professor Theodore Betley at Harvard University, focusing his research on the reactivity of polynuclear metallic cluster, in particular a new class of compounds based around a triiron phosphide core.

Before starting at York U, he spent some time with a Toronto-based startup company, Inkbox, as director of research and development.

photo of Steven Connor

Steven Connor

Steven Connor
Steven Connor joins the Department of Biology with a focus on research studying specialized zones of communication between brain cells known as synapses, and the fundamental properties of synapses as mutations in genes that code for proteins involved in synapse organization that are heavily implicated in neurodevelopmental diseases such as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). ASDs are neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impaired social and communication skills, as well as stereotyped patterns of behaviour.

Connor was the recipient of several prestigious awards, including a Brain Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship and several NSERC awards. He completed his PhD at the University of Alberta and is transitioning over from a postdoctoral position at the University of British Columbia beginning January 2018.

photo of Ryan Hili

Ryan Hili

Ryan Hili
The Department of Chemistry welcomes Ryan Hili, a recipient of the 2017 Thieme Chemistry Journal Award.

Hili earned his BSc (Hons.) in biological chemistry in 2005 from the University of Toronto. He later pursued graduate studies in organic chemistry under the supervision of Andrei K. Yudin at the University of Toronto, focusing on the synthesis and application of a novel class of stable unprotected amino aldehydes.

After earning his PhD in 2010, Hili joined the research group of Professor David. R. Liu at Harvard University as an NSERC postdoctoral fellow. At Harvard, he developed artificial methods to translate the information of DNA into synthetic polymers. In 2013, he began his independent career as assistant professor of chemistry at The University of Georgia (U.S.). There, he developed new technologies to evolve synthetic polymers as artificial antibodies for biomedical research, and pioneered ‘green chemistry’ platforms for high-throughput catalyst screening using DNA-encoding.

His independent work has been published in leading chemistry journals including the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Angewandte Chemie, and Chemical Science, and his research program has been supported by multiple funding agencies including the National Science Foundation (U.S.) and the National Institutes of Health (U.S.). Hili was recognized for his teaching through the 2016 American Chemical Society G.E. Philbrook Teaching Award.

photo of Derek Jackson

Derek Jackson

Derek Jackson
Derek Jackson will begin his fifth year teaching at York University in the Department of Chemistry, but this fall he will join the department as assistant lecturer.

Derek Jackson completed my BSc (Hons.) in 2006, his MSc in 2008, and his PhD in 2013 at the University of Toronto, where he studied the environmental chemistry of fluorinated compounds under the supervision of Professor Scott Mabury.

While at U of T, Jackson was the recipient of the Croft TA Award for his work in second-year organic chemistry. He also participated in the chemistry teaching fellowship program, which gave him the opportunity to publish two papers in the Journal of Chemical Education.

Jackson was hired by York University in 2013 as a sessional assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, and since then has mainly been teaching second-year organic chemistry (CHEM2020/2021), with some experience teaching first-year (CHEM1001) and third-year (CHEM3070, CHEM3080) courses.

He has an interest in incorporating active learning into his classes and together with his friend and colleague Hovig Kouyoumdjian, Jackson has made many exciting changes to organic chemistry, ranging from the use of in-class polling, online tutorials, wireless tablet teaching and more.

photo of Nicole Nivillac

Nicole Nivillac

Nicole Nivillac
Nicole Nivillac joins the Department of Biology as an assistant lecturer, and currently teaches a variety of courses including the foundational first-year biology course (Cells, Molecular Biology and Genetics), and upper-year microbiology. For both courses, she is the lab director and is working to modernize the laboratory offerings to provide students with opportunities to engage in authentic experiential learning.

As well, Nivillac is part of the inaugural teaching team for the newly developed Faculty of Science Integrated Science course.

Nivillac received her PhD in cell and molecular biology from York University, and had been on a limited term appointment since fall 2012. As a teaching assistant, she was an integral part of the redevelopment of the second-year laboratory offerings in biochemistry and cell biology.

Since 2011, Nivillac has directed her attention to pedagogical research, participating in several Academic Innovation Fund projects. She is particularly interested in implementing active learning techniques in her lectures and providing students with authentic research experiences in the labs.

photo of Cora Young

Cora Young

Cora Young
The Faculty of Science recruited and appointed Professor Cora Young as the new Guy Warwick Rogers Chair in Chemistry. The Rogers Chair was created as an endowment fund to support faculty research in the Department of Chemistry.

Young, who previously held a faculty position at Memorial University of Newfoundland since 2012, conducts research on environmental chemistry, using state-of-the-science analytical techniques to characterize chemicals, their sources, and their fates in the environment.

She completed her PhD at the University of Toronto, where she focused on the atmospheric chemistry of polyfluorinated compounds and their role as long-lived greenhouse gases and sources of persistent compounds to the environment. She then went on to complete a postdoctoral position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States and the University of Colorado, where she measured reactive atmospheric trace gases and determined their impact on the oxidative potential of the atmosphere.

Young has received the Colorado Governor’s Award for High‐Impact Research and has previously held awards from NSERC at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral level.

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