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Faculty of Arts & Science

Arts & Science News

Looking back at the top stories for 2016 in Arts & Science

Every year, Arts & Science faculty, staff and students contribute to groundbreaking discoveries, provide thoughtful insight on world events and create innovative products and processes that improve people’s lives.

2016 was no exception — here’s a round-up of the top 10 A&S stories!

  1. A&S helped prove that Einstein was right — again! A team of our astrophysicists helped prove Einstein’s theory of relativity. In February 2016, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced the detection of gravitational waves. U of T Associate Professor Harald Pfeiffer and his team contributed by providing the LIGO group with data and simulations required to ensure detection.
    Photo of U of T LIGO team members, Heather Fong, Harald Pfeiffer and Prayush Kumar

    U of T LIGO team members, Heather Fong, Harald Pfeiffer and Prayush Kumar. Photo: Diana Tyszko.

  2. When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the world was shocked. A&S experts from political science, The Munk School of Global Affairs, the School of Public Policy and Governance, and international relations were on hand to provide insight to media and others on what Brexit would mean for the EU, the UK, and other countries around the world. Stories about Brexit were among our most popular this year.
  3. The Internet watchdogs at the Citizen Lab in the Munk School of Global Affairs kept us abreast of cyber threats, particularly privacy violations and spyware. The lab discovered seven fitness trackers that leaked personal data, enabling anyone nearby to track a user’s location. The lab also revealed which governments censor their citizens’ text messages. Time to switch messaging apps?
  4. Barbara Sherwood Lollar of the Department of Earth Science received the prestigious NSERC Polanyi Prize for her groundbreaking research and discovery of billions-year-old water, rich in clues to ancient life on Earth.
    Photo of Barbara Sherwood Lollar in her lab looking into a piece of equipment

    Barbara Sherwood Lollar is a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences. Photo: NSERC.

  5. The tale of U of T’s youngest mathematician and rising star Jacob Tsimerman garnered lots of attention. While Tsimerman is quick to dismiss comparisons to Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting, it’s impossible to deny his mathematical prowess. At 28, he’s already accomplished an amazing breakthrough by proving the André-Oort conjecture — a very challenging number theory problem. His peers and mentors predict a possible Fields Medal — often described as the “mathematician’s Nobel Prize” — if Tsimerman continues on his current trajectory.
    Photo of Jacob Tsimerman in a chair in front of a black board

    Jacob Tsimerman. Photo: Diana Tyszko.

  6. Printem: A U of T start up founded by computer science PhD student Varun Perumal Chadalavada and professor Daniel Wigdor made the list of top U of T Inventions of the Year. The Printem team found an inexpensive way to create printed circuit boards from custom-designed film and a home or office printer. Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are at the core of all electronic devices but they’re expensive, time-consuming to make and require the use of specialized equipment. Not anymore. By inventing custom design film and using a basic printer, the company has removed equipment and cost barriers, potentially changing hardware development, prototyping and the mass production of electronic devices.
  7. Donald Trump became the U.S. president-elect on November 8 surprising most pollsters. A&S experts from across disciplines including political science, history, Canadian studies, women & gender studies, classics, philosophy, and the Munk School of Global Affairs weighed in on what Canada and the world can expect from a Trump presidency.
  8. A&S had three Rhodes Scholars graduate in 2016. James Flynn, Jessica Phillips and Kaleem Hawa received a great deal of attention for their accomplishments; however, another Oxford-bound graduate, Theodora Bruun, also stepped into the spotlight for trying nearly everything at U of T. During her undergrad, Brunn studied chemistry, human biology and Italian, drawing connections between seemingly unrelated disciplines. Her experience revealed the diverse academic possibilities available to A&S undergrads.
    Photo of Theodora Bruun sitting in front of a blue-tiled wall

    Theodora Bruun. Photo: Diana Tyszko.

  9. A&S hosted a discussion on Bill C-16 and the gender provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The discussion brought together scholars from the fields of psychology, gender and diversity studies, law and education. The forum demonstrated how the University continues to hold true to academic exploration and discourse, contributing signicantly to understanding current social issues.
    Photo of Professor Mayo Moran, Professor Jordan Peterson and Professor Brenda Cossman at the forum

    From left: Professor Mayo Moran, Professor Jordan Peterson and Professor Brenda Cossman at the forum. Photo: Romi Levine.

  10. PhD psychology candidate Jessica Maxwell revealed the secret to a happy sex life: keep your “sexpectations” in check! Achieving a happy sex life, like most things in life, takes hard work and effort.
    Photo of Jessica Maxwell on her laptop in her office

    Jessica Maxwell. Photo: Diana Tyszko.

Pretty impressive — let’s see what 2017 has in store!