U of T’s 2022 Naylor Fellows shine light on Black health, climate communication, humane prisons and a healthy home

On left, from top: Damilola Iduye, Jill Downey, and Nayani Jensen; on right: Kate Mitchell

By Janet Rowe

A climate engineer exploring the history of science communication. A chemist making your home safer. An expert in law and public administration with a passion for prison reform. And a nurse anchored in two cultures reforming the way we offer diabetes care.

Nayani Jensen, Jill Downey, Kate Mitchell and Damilola Iduye are the recipients of this year’s C. David Naylor Fellowships for graduate students. All are leveraging the power of interdisciplinary insights to create impactful, solution-focused research at the University of Toronto.

The Naylor Fellowships were established in 2013 with the support of the Arthur L. Irving Family Foundation, which seeks to provide meaningful support to students and empower them through education. The $30,000 awards support outstanding U of T students with origins in Atlantic Canada.

Meet the four 2022 Naylor Fellows

Damilola Iduye: Understanding the structural determinants of health is crucial in explaining Black people’s health

“What really excites me is what we have not done yet,” says Damilola Iduye.

“We do know that Black people have twice the rate of type 2 diabetes compared with white Canadians. We also know that Black people generally are disproportionately affected by social determinants of health. But we often think about Black people as a homogenous group;, we usually don’t consider their cultural diversity and how they may experience health differently.”

For her doctoral research at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, she wants “look at how social and structural determinants of health intersect to shape the experiences of Black people in Canada with type 2 diabetes with consideration for their cultural diversity. I’m really excited to contribute to the body of knowledge on culturally appropriate and structurally competent health care.” Iduye’s doctoral dissertation will provide insights into future research directions and the development and implementation of equity-informed policies and interventions for combating diabetes in this population.

Jill Downey: How your home affects your health—and how to fix that

Jill Downey, a master’s student in environmental chemistry, wants to make your home safer.

“When people hear ‘environmental chemistry,’ they think of the outdoors and pollution,” she says, “but pollutants can also get indoors and affect our air quality. In particular, I’m looking at ozone and how it reacts with surfaces and things that accumulate on indoor surfaces, like oils.”

Ozone, it turns out, can react with other molecules and trigger the release of volatile organic carbons—substances that can affect our health. Downey hopes her work will help keep Canadians safe by teasing out the health impact of different types of materials in the home, from glass to metal to fabric.

Downey grew up in Rothesay, New Brunswick, and earned her bachelor of science at Mount Allison University. “Without this fellowship, I wouldn’t be able to go to U of T,” she says. “And U of T has the best environmental chemistry program in Canada.”

Kate Mitchell: A prison that treats prisoners humanely. How do we get there?

Kate Mitchell knows a lot about the law—and about how scholarly research can make the case for change.

Currently studying for her SJD (Scientiae Juridicae Doctor, a doctorate in law) at the University of Toronto, the Halifax native also already holds a JD from Queen’s University. And before that, “a bachelor of arts from Dalhousie, a master’s of public administration from Queen’s, and a master of laws at UCLA.”

Mitchell’s current focus is “how we can ensure the rule of law within prison walls. Although prisons have transformed from systems in which officials had basically unfettered discretion into rule-based systems in which prisoners have rights, many harsh practices remain.”

Nayani Jensen: How come we think the way we do about climate change?

Two hundred years ago, a devastating volcanic eruption in Indonesia sparked the birth of climate science.

Nayani Jensen, a doctoral candidate in U of T’s Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, explains. “The Mount Tambora eruption in 1815 led to two or three years of really anomalous cold weather, disasters, famine and floods around the world. That led to the publication of books like Frankenstein, and a lot of writing about climate.”

“Focusing on 1800 to 1840, I’m looking at how science responded to extreme weather events,” she says, “and how we came to understand that climate is global. In the early 19th century there was a very different way of writing about science, much more popular and accessible, and so I’m also hoping to find new ways for writers and scientists to reach the public. It’s an interesting mix of climate research, history, statistics, and how we think about science.”

Read the full story by Janet Rowe on the Defy Gravity campaign website.

Back to Home