Big Ideas at U of T

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Big Ideas at U of T

Astronomy, cyber espionage, music and activism!

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Convocation Hall 31 King's College Circle Toronto, ON M5S 1A1 Canada

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About this event

  • 2 hours
  • Mobile eTicket


Discover the latest big ideas from four of U of T's sharpest minds.

The University of Toronto invites you to an evening showcasing four Connaught-funded researchers sharing their cutting-edge scholarship: from the earliest moments of the universe, the dangers of international digital espionage, the politics of music in expatriate communities and the sounds of Kensington Market, to how we can exercise activism and advocacy through research.

The talks will be followed by a roundtable discussion moderated by broadcast journalist Mary Ito, host of The CRAM Podcast which highlights innovative research and big ideas in Canada.

The event is free and open to the public at U of T’s historic Convocation Hall.

All attendees receive a gift at the door.

About the Speakers

Big Ideas at U of T image

Renée Hložek, Cosmologist, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics

Professor Renée Hložek studies the Universe from the earliest moments to the far future. Her work uses statistical methods and precise observations to answer cosmic questions. She makes measurements of both visible and microwave light with telescopes high in the deserts of northern Chile and uses these measurements to learn about the fundamental building blocks of nature.

Farzaneh Hemmasi, Ethnomusicologist, Faculty of Music

Professor Hemmasi's research has primarily focused on Iranian popular music in diaspora, especially in Los Angeles. Her book Tehrangeles Dreaming: Intimacy and Imagination in Southern California’s Iranian Pop Music (Duke University Press, 2020) won the Hamid Naficy Book Award from the Center of Iranian Diaspora Studies and Association for Iranian Studies. She currently leads a collaborative, community-engaged ethnographic research project on music, sound, and noise in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighborhood.

Maydianne Andrade, Evolutionary Ecologist & Equity Activist, Department of Biological Sciences, UTSC

University Professor Andrade is an award-winning, internationally recognized expert on sexual selection and the ecology of black widow spiders. She is also co-founder and president of the Canadian Black Scientists Network, and founder of the Toronto Initiative for Diversity and Excellence. In these roles, she has co-created organizations working to increase inclusion within institutions and across Canada through education and advocacy.

Ronald Deibert, Director, The Citizen Lab at U of T’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

Professor Deibert is the principal investigator of the Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory focusing on research, development, and high-level strategic policy and legal engagement at the intersection of information and communication technologies, human rights, and global security. He has overseen and contributed to the publication of more than 120 reports covering pathbreaking research on cyber espionage, commercial spyware, Internet censorship, and human rights.



Unraveling the Dark Universe presented by Professor Renée Hložek

Cosmologists spend their time putting together the puzzle pieces of the Universe. Professor Hložek will describe some of the observations used to find those puzzle pieces: from the first microwave light right after the beginning of the Big Bang to exploding stars that can be used as light beacons to map distances in the Universe. In cosmology, what the Universe is made of is connected to its eventual fate — so we can know how this story will end!

The Problem with Music presented by Professor Farzaneh Hemmasi

What does it mean to investigate music as a problem? Idealistic North American cultural discourse so often conceives of music as “a universal language” that “brings people together,” but music can also annoy, divide, and more. This talk will discuss the problems with music in two cases, the politics of the Iranian expatriate popular music industry in Southern California, and conflicts over sound and music in Toronto’s Kensington Market.

Activation and Advocacy: Using the Privilege of the Scholar to Advance Justice presented by University Professor Maydianne Andrade

For scholars whose primary research does not intersect with major societal challenges, it can be tempting to conclude that there is little to be done in response to the pressing needs of our current context. Professor Andrade will discuss the evolution of her views on activism, and how the platform and skill sets developed as an academic researcher can be leveraged to create change.

Tracking Digital Espionage at the Citizen Lab presented by Professor Ronald Deibert

This talk will explore the Citizen Lab’s forensic research into targeted digital espionage against civil society. Professor Deibert will outline major cases that have received international attention and have prompted national scandals in countries such as Greece, Spain and Mexico.

Roundtable Discussion

Our four speakers gather for a roundtable discussion moderated by broadcast journalist Mary Ito to tease out points of connection between their multidisciplinary areas of study, discuss how research can address major challenges in our global society and improve the public good, and the role the University plays in all this.

What is the Connaught Fund?

Celebrating its 50th year, the Connaught Fund supports the research of U of T graduate students, early-career researchers, interdisciplinary teams, and innovators to enable them to meet the challenges facing our global society. To date, the Connaught Fund has awarded more than $178 million to researchers from a range of disciplines and a diversity of lived experiences.


Where can I park near Convocation Hall?

There are limited parking options available near the event venue. It is highly recommended that attendees take public transit.

Will there be food served at the event?

Due to the historical nature of Convocation Hall, food and drinks are not permitted inside the venue. There are several dining options available nearby. It is recommended that attendees eat before attending this event. Guests may bring water into the Hall.

Does Convocation Hall offer accessibility seating?

The venue does offer accessibility seating options. Please email and speak to a representative upon arrival at the event to receive assistance with being seated.

Do I need to print out my ticket?

To be admitted into the venue, please show a printed copy of your ticket or a digital copy on your mobile device at the door.

Will there be filming or photography at the event?

There will be both filming and photography taking place at the event, where your image may be captured for promotional purposes. By entering Convocation Hall during this event, you consent to being filmed and photographed. There will also be signage posted at the venue indicating this.

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