Kifah GharzeddiVisiting scholar Kifah Gharzeddin is applying molecular biology to the development of heartier crop varieties.

Researcher developing crops better able to cope with changing climate

A visiting scholar in integrative biology is using molecular biology to boost crop production and reduce food insecurity in the face of climate change.

Using selective breeding, crop breeder Kifah Gharzeddin takes cultivars — plant varieties chosen for their specific traits — and breeds heartier varieties.

“I genetically improve crop traits that are important for farmers and processors, such as yield, resistance to diseases, and resistance to environmental stressors, mainly to heat and drought,” says Dr. Gharzeddin.

At a time of global climate change, he says, it is a top priority to secure food production, by developing crops resistant to biotic and abiotic stressors.

“Increasing global temperature is imposing significant depletion of crop production, not only through the direct effect of the heat itself on the plant systems, but also by stimulating the activities of biotic stresses such as fungi and pests,” Gharzeddin says.

“I aim to develop new crop varieties with distinguished traits of Windsor-Essex crops to support local farming food producers, processors, and consumers. Under the adversity of climate perpetuations, breeding for high and robust yield and increased crop nutritional properties is essential to handle the implications of challenging climate on food crops.”

Developing a new crop variety involves combining parent plants holding favourable traits and applying selection on the progeny populations over several generations to select those with the best performance for the trait of interest, Gharzeddin says.

“To improve the efficacy of selection, I apply molecular techniques to help identify, characterize, and utilize the genetic variations found in the progeny populations. Due to the rapid growth of the world’s population and food insecurity concerns, further inputs to crop breeding are needed,” he says.

“That is how a crop breeder such as myself contributes to the global efforts of tackling these challenges.”

Bringing his plant breeding expertise to campus means he is developing crops specifically for local conditions.

“Windsor-Essex County is one of the top agricultural regions in the world, and the University of Windsor developed an advanced and comprehensive agriculture program by collaborating with government and industry present in Windsor-Essex County. This enables excellent crop breeding research and variety development in Windsor,” says Gharzeddin.

One of those early collaborations is using the plant microbiome, which takes advantage of beneficial communities of plant microbes that live on and inside plants, to enhance the breeding outcome and increase crop fitness. Gharzeddin says this method has great potential to strengthen plant resistance against pathogens.

Recently inducted into the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Gharzeddin says being part of the group promotes interdisciplinary approaches to solving problems.

“I see the only way the scientific community can help tackle the biggest problems in Canada and the world is to invest time and energy on developing interdisciplinary programs and practices,” he says.

Dana MénardPsychology professor Dana Ménard is seeking subjects for a survey on the experiences of Canadians with endometriosis.

Study exploring sexual experiences of Canadians with endometriosis

Over one million Canadians suffer from endometriosis, a chronic health condition affecting more than one in 10 women and people assigned female at birth worldwide.

Endometriosis is a disease characterized by cells resembling the uterine lining — the endometrium — growing outside the uterus, including around the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the rectum, and other locations. It is associated with painful menstrual cycles, pelvic pain, gastrointestinal and bladder symptoms, and infertility. While the condition is known to have a negative impact on physical and psychological functioning, less is known about sexual well-being among sufferers.

Psychology professor Dana Ménard’s current study of sexual well-being among those diagnosed with endometriosis is funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and WE-Spark Health Institute. This study is surveying Canadian cisgender women and those who identify as two-spirit, trans, or non-binary, and assigned female at birth, over 16 years of age, who have been diagnosed with endometriosis by a healthcare professional. These participants are asked to fill out an online survey of about 30 to 40 minutes on endometriosis and sexual health and well-being.

Previous research in this area has generally focused on genital functioning within the context of defects, rather than on a more comprehensive understanding of sexuality. This is also the first study in Canada to consider experiences of endometriosis in people who identify as two-spirit, trans, or non-binary and one of only a few worldwide.

“Sexual well-being has received little attention, despite existing findings clearly demonstrating that some people with endo do report satisfying sexual encounters,” says Dr. Ménard. “There has been little interest in what they themselves might consider to be a healthy, functional sex life and the voices of endo sufferers have generally been excluded from research findings.”

The current project is facilitated by Ménard’s status as a core principal member of the WE-Spark Health Institute, a partnership among academic and community health partners in the Windsor-Essex region. She has also partnered to assist in recruiting participants with the Endometriosis Network of Canada, which offers support groups and workshops for those living with endometriosis.

“The goal of this program of research is to understand sexual well-being, satisfaction, and resilience in Canadians diagnosed with endo from their perspectives,” says Ménard. “The survey is the first step, followed by interviews to better understand people’s experiences.

“We have already started doing interviews with two-spirit, trans, and non-binary individuals with endo, and we’ll be interviewing cis-women in the fall and winter. Down the road, we’ll be sharing our results with sex educators and health-care professionals who work with people diagnosed with endo to provide interventions that will support their sexual well-being and, in so doing, their psychological and relational health as well.”

Over time, the results from this investigation and subsequent studies will be helpful to the millions of people who live with these conditions and want to improve the quality of their sexual experiences, and in turn, their quality of life.

For more information or to take part, contact the UWindsor Endometriosis Study at

Bianca DaherRecent grad Bianca Daher is mounting an exhibition of her art June 16 in the Artspeak Gallery.

Homage to family centre of recent grad’s solo art exhibition

Poring over family artifacts, documents, and photographs, recent fine arts graduate Bianca Daher discovered a way to process her grief and honour her family through her artwork.

The loss of multiple family members in a short time frame left her to work through many emotions. As a source of comfort, she began collecting documents and old photographs, digging deeper into her family history.

“I had the chance to go through old family documents while cleaning out their homes and found passports and citizenship cards from the ’60s, which I scanned and organized into binders,” Daher said.

“I did the same for both sides of the family. I sorted through a shoebox of old photos, including my grandmother’s wedding pictures, and scanned them all. I also looked through postcards, noting what was written on them. At the same time, I’m reaching out to aunts and uncles trying to get as many photos as I can.”

She expanded her collection and knowledge through an ancestry website, and with that, Daher decided to make an homage to her family by incorporating the documents and photographs she had found into her art through a blend of materials and methods for her final project.

She will be showcasing her art by hosting a solo exhibition, ‘Tending to Time’ at Artspeak Gallery from June 16 to 22.

“I hope it inspires people to discover their ancestry. I know my ancestry up to my great-grandparents, but beyond that, no one really knows much about our family history,” Daher said.

“Both sides of my family are immigrants, and we’ve lost access to photographs and family documents from earlier generations. Any existing documents would likely be kept by a church in another country, which I cannot access. I hope this encourages people to wonder about their family's documents and origin.”

Going into university, Daher said, she was uncertain about the direction she wanted her art to take. Although she had always had a strong technical talent, she sought to add more depth to her pieces.

“I came in with a lot of skills and I was doing hyper-realistic portraits, but I wasn’t really making anything that truly meant something to me,” she explained.

Over Daher’s four years at the School of Creative Arts, with the help of courses in art history and contemporary art, she learned to take that talent, utilize a range of materials, and create something more meaningful to her.

“I feel like once you learn how to think critically about your work and other people’s work and just the world around you — whether it’s art or politics or anything — it almost changes the way you think,” Daher said.

“There are a ton of classes that I’ve taken that truly did change the way I think and the way that I approach making art, like the mediums that I use, and then how it looks. Not everything has to be hyper-realistic. You can make a sculpture, you can make mixed media. My experience at SoCA definitely changed my practice.”

Daher crossed the stage last week alongside nearly 5,000 other graduates at Convocation, an experience which came with mixed emotions, as she’s excited for the next chapter but will miss the community of artists working alongside one another. She plans to continue her studies at the master’s level in the fall.

The Artspeak Gallery is located at 1942 Wyandotte St. East. Learn more about Daher’s work and her upcoming exhibition.

Lawrence GoodridgeLawrence Goodridge, co-lead of the Integrated Network for the Surveillance of Pathogens, addresses a workshop launching the project.

Workshop launches pandemic preparedness project

Governments around the globe were unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic and Canada was no exception, says Mike McKay. A workshop Wednesday served to launch a $15 million project to help the country respond to future pandemics by strengthening its biomanufacturing sector.

Dr. McKay, director of the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, co-leads the project along with Lawrence Goodridge, professor of food science at the University of Guelph. The Integrated Network for the Surveillance of Pathogens (INSPIRE) is supported by the Canada Biomedical Research Fund and the Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund.

“Anchored by a robust and timely cross-border pathogen surveillance network, we will integrate biomanufacturing and health sector supply chains, cross-border trade and mobility, to instill resilience and build capacity in the biomanufacturing sector in Canada,” McKay says.

The June 12 meeting was conducted in hybrid fashion to include researchers from partner institutions in Guelph, Waterloo, Toronto, Ohio, and New York in discussions of pathogen surveillance, detection technologies, and supply chain issues.

“To build resilience in Canada’s biomanufacturing ecosystem, we must learn from experience to develop proactive strategies to prevent the devastating impact of infectious diseases on the biomanufacturing and health sectors and improve efficiencies moving assets across borders,” McKay says.

Cast members of the Stratford show London Assurance: Deborah Hay, Geraint Wyn Davies, Austin Eckert, and Marissa Orjalo.Cast members of the Stratford show "London Assurance": Deborah Hay, Geraint Wyn Davies, Austin Eckert, and Marissa Orjalo.

Bus trip to take in Stratford production

A Sept. 19 charter trip to the Stratford Festival promises a theatrical experience for attendees.

Organized by the Windsor University Retirees’ Association but open to all, the trip includes a discounted ticket to see the Victorian comedy London Assurance, round-trip bus travel from Windsor to and from Stratford, and a buffet dinner after the play.

Written by Dion Boucicault and directed by UWindsor grad Antoni Cimolino (BFA 1984, D.Hum 2004), London Assurance satirizes the pretensions and fashions of the upper classes.

“This play is filled with unbridled joy,” says Cimolino, the festival’s artistic director. “The sense of modernity about the piece may surprise audiences.”

Drama professor emeritus Brian Taylor will join the bus ride to offer insights prior to the show and lead discussion afterward.

Travellers may purchase the full package or select individual elements. Find more information, including an itinerary, seating plan, and menu, on the WURA website.

Officials from Stantec Consulting and the University of WindsorOfficials from Stantec Consulting and the University of Windsor celebrate an industry award to the engineering firm for its role in developing the Carbon Neutral Masterplan.

Environmental plan earns praise for engineering consultants

Its work on the University’s Carbon Neutral Masterplan has earned engineering firm Stantec Consulting recognition from industry peers across the province.

The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – Ontario conferred its Ontario Engineering Project Award of Distinction on Stantec during a reception May 9 in Toronto.

The awards, determined by a jury of industry professionals, highlight the finest achievements, emphasizing innovation, excellence, and the societal impact of these groundbreaking projects, said association executive director Andrew Hurd.

“The evening is about celebrating the industry’s impact on our communities across Ontario,” he said.

The Carbon Neutral Masterplan calls on the University to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and achieve complete carbon neutrality by 2050. Read it here.

Nadia Harduar, the University’s sustainability officer, extended congratulations to Stantec for the honour.

“The consultants helped us to develop an ambitious path forward to environmental responsibility,” she said. “This professional recognition highlights the importance of doing our part to combat global warming.”

calculatorApply by June 21 for awards through the University Diversity, Indigeneity, and Anti-Racism Professional Development Funds.

Application deadline approaching for funding in Indigeneity and anti-racist pedagogy

Applications for the June 2024 disbursement of awards through the University Diversity, Indigeneity, and Anti-Racism Professional Development Funds are due by June 21.

Awards of up to $5,000 — and more, depending on availability — are open to members of the Windsor University Faculty Association. Find more information, including the application form, on the Office of the Vice-President, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion website.

Reception to celebrate retirement of Rose Zanutto

Colleagues, friends, and well-wishers will celebrate the retirement of Rose Zanutto, executive director of institutional analysis, at an open house reception Wednesday, June 26.

The event will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. in room 4108, Leddy Library.