Team Biographies

David Phipps

Director, Research Impact Canada

Dr. Phipps received his Ph.D. in Immunology from Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario) and undertook post-doctoral studies in HIV research at the University Health Network (Toronto). After leaving the lab he built a career managing academic research holding successively senior positions at the University of Toronto Innovations Foundation (Manager of Biotechnology and Life Sciences), Canadian Arthritis Network (Director of Business Development) and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (Director of Partnerships). In 2001 Dr. Phipps completed his MBA from the Rotman School of Management (University of Toronto). Dr. Phipps is Assistant Vice President Research Strategy & Impact at York University (Toronto, Canada).

In this capacity, he founded York’s award-winning Knowledge Mobilization Unit that provides services to researchers, community organizations and government agencies who wish to use maximize the economic, social and environmental impacts of university research. Dr. Phipps has been named the most influential knowledge mobilizer in Canada. Other awards and recognitions include:

  • 2020 Award for Excellence in Research Management Leadership, International Network of Research Management Societies (INORMS)
  • 2020 Walter Hitschfeld Award, Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA)
  • 2020 Spirit of Kindness Award Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA)
  • 2018 Outstanding Contribution, Emerald Global Impact Award
  • 2017 Directors’ Award for Inter-Institutional Collaboration, Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA)
  • 2015 Research Management Excellence Award, Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA)
  • 2015 President’s Award for Innovation, Institute for Knowledge Mobilization

He was the Knowledge Translation Lead for Kids Brain Health Network of Centres of Excellence (2015-2018) and is the Network Director for Research Impact Canada, Canada’s knowledge mobilization network including 20 universities investing in strategies to maximize the impact of research. He has served on knowledge mobilization and impact committees in Canada, US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

He is an immigrant settler who makes his home in Toronto on the indigenous territory that is subject to the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant.

Connie Tang

Director, Strategy & Business Development

Connie Tang is the Director of Strategy and Business Development at Research Impact Canada (RIC). In her role, she supports RIC’s bilingual network of 20+ universities and leads the knowledge mobilisation portfolio for Canada’s skills, education, and training sector with the Future Skills Centre. Through volunteer work, she is an active advocate for women, seniors, and newcomers to Canada in the Scarborough community and volunteers as a career mentor with Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.

Connie completed her MSc at the University of Toronto in Chemistry, related to energy and conservation management, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Toronto Region Conservation Authority. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, painting, and cooking.

Bissy L. Waariyo

Director of Operations (Acting)

Bissy L. Waariyo is the Director of Operations (Acting) at Research Impact Canada. In her role, she draws on her extensive community-based research, evaluation, and skills-sector service delivery expertise to develop an evaluation framework to demonstrate the impact of RIC’s project activities for the Future Skills Centre.

Bissy completed her MA in Political Science at Carleton University and was a recipient of the prestigious Canada Graduate Scholarship. She also dedicates her time to The Villij, a wellness club designed to help women of colour nurture their mental, emotional and physical well-being. In her free time, she enjoys indulging in self-care practices, trying new restaurants, exploring botanical gardens, and checking out eclectic art exhibits, museums, and film festivals.

Sandy Chan

Operations Officer

Sandy Chan is the Operations Officer at Research Impact Canada (RIC). In her role, she supports the Operations team with administrative tasks, events planning, and communications as well as project support. Before joining RIC, she worked in a Member of Parliament’s office and gained campaign experience during the 2021 federal and 2022 provincial elections. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies and Political Science, a Master’s degree in Development Studies, and a post-graduate certificate in Government Relations. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading, and exploring the fun activities and food places that Toronto offers.

Louis Melançon

Bilingual Research Assistant

Louis Melançon is a bilingual Research Assistant at Research Impact Canada (RIC). In his role, he supports many of the organization’s projects and initiatives. Louis is currently leading an initiative to support and improve RIC’s bilingual capacity, so that members of the network and their publics across Canada can better communicate. He is also working in collaboration with RIC’s Skills Stakeholder Engagement team, helping them develop a pan-Canadian community of practice for the skills and workforce development sector. Louis completed a Master’s degree in Knowledge Mobilization at l’Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), and is currently a PhD candidate in Communication Studies at McGill University. In his free time, he enjoys choir singing and playing board games with friends.

Julia Levin

Manager, Knowledge Mobilization

Julia Levin is the Manager, Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) at Research Impact Canada (RIC) where her role includes dissemination and capacity building for RIC member institutions and partners. Prior to joining RIC Julia worked as the Associate, Partnerships at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Institute of Nutrition Metabolism and Diabetes, providing strategic support in the development and management of partnerships to co-fund health research.

Julia’s other roles have included working as a Nutrition Consultant for the American Society of Nutrition, helping to execute their annual conference, working as a diabetes educator, research coordinator and training specialist at LMC Healthcare, Canada’s largest specialist diabetes care provider. Julia completed her undergraduate degree in Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Western Ontario and became certified as a Registered Dietitian following her internship at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Julia completed a Masters in Science at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Julia enjoys photography, cooking, and spending time with her three children!

Sylvia Urbanik

Knowledge Mobilization Specialist

Sylvia Urbanik is the Knowledge Mobilization Specialist at Research Impact Canada (RIC), where she supports capacity building for knowledge mobilization and coordinates the day to day activities of the RIC Network. She has a strong background in qualitative research and analysis in the areas of mental health, community capacity building, and social inequality. Sylvia completed her Master of Public Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health with specializations in Health Promotion and Public Health Policy. She also holds an Honours Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto in Health & Disease, with minors in Sociology, and Immunology. She is passionate about the role of policy in addressing health inequities through action on the social determinants of health. Sylvia is an avid Raptors fan and enjoys cooking, gardening, and staying active in her spare time.

Elisabeth Huang

Bilingual Knowledge Mobilization Specialist

Elisabeth Huang is the Bilingual Knowledge Management Specialist with Research Impact Canada (RIC). Her role focuses broadly on dissemination and capacity building for knowledge mobilization.

As an individual who is passionate about collaborating with others to address systemic issues to foster a more inclusive, sustainable, and equitable future, she had the privilege of contributing to various sectors, which include health, international development, economic development, and education. She is highly interested in applying innovative and evidence-based solutions to drive social impact. She looks forward to collaborating with the team to enable Canadians gain the skills they need to thrive in a changing labour market.

Elisabeth holds a MSc in Global Health from McMaster University. When she is not working, she can be most likely found cycling, jogging, volunteering, or experimenting with food.

Saba Aslani

Bilingual Knowledge Mobilization Specialist

Saba is a bilingual knowledge mobilization specialist at Research Impact Canada (RIC). Saba is a community-minded individual with a passion to bring diverse perspectives together to create meaningful change. Saba’s love for engaging with the community has led her to take on various roles in community outreach, science communication, and knowledge mobilization. Saba holds an MSc in Biotechnology from the University of Tehran and another MSc in Neuroscience from McGill University. Saba is passionate about connecting research with the community and fostering shared decision-making with a dedication to social justice and community empowerment. As a first-generation immigrant, Saba knows firsthand the challenges that newcomers face in joining and integrating into the Canadian workforce. In her free time, Saba deeply enjoys practicing yoga, and meditation. She also loves traveling to explore different cultures and languages.

Prama Rahman

Knowledge Mobilization Specialist

Prama Rahman is a Knowledge Mobilization Specialist at Research Impact Canada (RIC). In her role, she supports the mobilization of relevant insights from research and collaborates with RIC member institutions, as well as partners and projects associated with the Future Skills Centre.

Prama has an academic background in International Relations and English Literature. Her research interests include international organizations, development, global health, and the role of language and narratives in public policy. Drawing on her experience in program and project coordination, Prama looks forward to collaborating with community-based researchers and practitioners to contribute to projects in the skills development and workforce innovation sector.

Kim Knight

Evaluation and Research Analyst

Kim Knight is an experienced researcher with skills in planning, design execution and evaluation in health, e-commerce and education. From designing an AI-powered chatbot to evaluating the needs of Black, Indigenous and Women of Colour (BIWOC) in wellness spaces, Kim is an advocate for inclusive learning, collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Some of Kim’s interests include community building, decolonizing wellness practices and learning traditional family Jamaican recipes. Her current reads include More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth and The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk.

Valentina Latorre Franky

Evaluation and Research Analyst

Valentina Latorre Franky is an Evaluation and Research Analyst at Research Impact Canada (RIC). In her role, she is supporting the development and execution of an evaluation framework and an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion action plan for RIC’s project activities for the Future Skill’s Centre’s Community of Practice to help Canadians thrive in a changing labour market through inclusive and effective skills development.

To do this, she draws on her broad and expansive experience, working across sectors with government, the private sector, non-profit organizations, community-based groups, post-secondary institutions, and knowledge networks. Valentina specializes in community-based mixed-methods research and evaluation. Prior to joining RIC, she led community-based program evaluations for youth employment and housing programs as well as newcomer settlement programs.

Valentina earned her Masters of Arts in Health Policy and Equity and she holds a Bachelor of Sciences in Kinesiology and Health Sciences, both from York University. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Centre for Spanish Speaking People and the Canadian Evaluation Society – Ontario chapter and is a grant reviewer with the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Through her work and community involvement, Valentina aims to collaborate with others to drive positive social and systemic change to advance population health by building healthy, equitable, inclusive, just, and sustainable communities.

Trudy Button

Manager, Stakeholder Engagement
for Skills Innovation

Trudy Button is the Manager, Stakeholder Engagement for Skills Innovation at Research Impact Canada (RIC). In her role, she supports stakeholder engagement for the skills and workforce development sector, including a pan-Canadian Community of Practice for practitioners in the sector. Trudy completed her Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and her MBA at Saint Mary’s University. Trudy’s career has spanned Workforce Development, Human Resources, Student Services, and Government. She has a passion for lifelong learning and the future of work. As a lifelong learner, she is currently completing the Certificate in Public Policy (Urban and Regional) at Memorial University of Newfoundland. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, and binge-watching food travel shows.

Crystal Olson

Skills Sector Partnership Coordinator

Crystal Olson is a Skills Sector Partnerships Coordinator at Research Impact Canada (RIC). In her role, she works to build a community of practice through a pan-Canadian stakeholder engagement strategy in the skills and workforce development sector with Future Skills Centre.  Crystal completed her HBA and B.Ed at Lakehead University in history, and currently serves as chair on the Board Directors for the North Superior Workforce Planning Board.  Through her volunteer work, she engages in a variety of community and economic development activites across the District of Thunder Bay including with the Rural Cupboard Foodbank and Thunder Bay CEDC Entrepreneur Centre. In her free time, she enjoys a homesteading lifestyle on her small farm in Northwestern Ontario.

Marie Page

Skills Sector Partnership Coordinator

As a Skills Sector Partnership Coordinator with Impact Research Canada (RIC), Marie Page will be promoting a pan-Canadian stakeholder engagement strategy within the workforce development sector, post secondary institutions, non-profit orgs, industry contacts, and community based organizations. Having a B.Soc in political science from the King’s University in Edmonton Alberta, Marie has always brought her passion for the humanities into her projects. She has worked in Ontario, Alberta and overseas in Ethiopia. Some of her highlights include working with International students at the University of Alberta, Immigrant and indigenous youth facing barriers in Hamilton, and partnering with the regional health bureau in western Ethiopia, shedding light on GBV practices within the region.Marie is an avid forager and enjoys the outdoors, You will often find her exploring the wonderful trails around Hamilton. 

Meghan Realesmith

Meghan Realesmith

Skills Sector Partnership Coordinator

In the role of Skills Sector Partnership Coordinator with Research Impact Canada, Meghan Reale (Ph.D.) brings together two of her greatest strengths: research, and communication. Meghan began her career in research by pursuing a doctorate in neurosciences at the University of Western Ontario and University of Michigan, earning her a national award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Meghan went on to develop her adaptive communication skills in her role as a college professor teaching future health care professionals.

As a workforce researcher and project manager, Meghan has built collaborative partnership networks while meeting project goals designed to support the local labour force in Sarnia-Lambton, Ontario. She is also an engaged volunteer within Sarnia-Lambton at various non-profit organizations in leadership and governance roles. Currently, she is the vice-president of board of directors for Sarnia-Lambton Rebound, a nationally accredited organization responsible for inclusive youth-driven programming across Ontario designed to support and empower the successful development of youth.

Meghan enjoys going hiking and reading a good book, most of all when it’s a fun storybook she is reading to her two daughters.