Our mission is to develop in our students the deep technical, problem-solving and leadership skills needed to create—or leverage —new computing technologies to empower people, organizations and society. From oceans to healthcare, information communications technology to aerospace, our students, professors and alumni are using their skills to make an impact.
Published annually by Dalhousie’s Faculty of Computer Science EDITOR Becca Rawcliffe PHOTOGRAPHY Nick Pearce, Daniel Abriel ART DIRECTION / PUBLICATION DESIGN Brenna MacNeil
Message from the Dean
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
PLACEMENT RATE FOR CO-OP STUDENTS
CANADA RESEARCH CHAIRS
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MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN I am delighted to welcome you to the first Faculty of Computer Science annual update. I write this during a period of extraordinary changeand adaptation as we all continue to adjust to a new way of working and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here at the Faculty, we have just seen 1,300 students take summer courses online and we look forward to running a full complement of courses in the fall term. As we look ahead, we are dreaming about how we can embrace longterm innovation and position the Faculty to emerge from this period even stronger. The case for computing, data science, and digital transformation being central to the world we are living in to has never been as clear or strong. The opportunities for innovation within academics abound and include the chance to explore new blended instructional models, new research opportunities, and ways we can engage with a wider range of teaching and learning formats. In response to the rapid evolution of computing across industry sectors we are continuously enhancing our educational and research offerings to students. We have recently launched in partnership with the Faculties of Management, Law, and Medicine a new Master of Digital Innovation (MDI) degree. This interdisciplinary graduate-level program provides education and training in digital transformation. The digital landscape is rapidly changing across all industries and sectors, now more than ever, and we have made these program changes to graduate leaders with the technical and business knowledge to manage change and identify opportunities in the face of digital innovation.
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Speaking of innovation, Faculty of Computer Science-based technology sandbox, ShiftKey Labs is booming. The volume of events organized, engaged students and industry partners, and startup ideas coming out of ShiftKey has risen exponentially. One area I am particularly pleased to see grow is the Hackathon series. Events like this provide students from across disciplines with hands-on applied experience that they can take with them to boost their skills and portfolio, and maybe even make their ideas a reality. They also provide us with meaningful ways to collaborate with our industry partners to solve challenges together.
Diversity and inclusion is another area that is benefitting from partnership. Our WeAreAllCS initiative is going fromstrength to strength and this wouldnâ€™t be possible without industry partners who share our values. This year, we welcomed new partners including the Leacross Foundation who join existing supporters in offering scholarship and mentorship opportunities to incoming female students. We also held our first WeAreAllCS Partner Day, where I was thrilled to see our partners engage with female students on campus.
Our partnerships have really enabled us to make the most of our growth and leverage change to provide an enhanced learning experience for our students. We have been in an active partnership with the Federal Government for the past year, exploring the shared challenges and opportunities we face. We know that there are supply and demand issues when it comes to digital talent in Canada and, by working together, we hope that we can prepare and inspire the workforce of tomorrow to work not only in government but all organizations that are feeling the impacts of digital transformation. Insight from this partnership is positively impacting our curriculum, co-op offering and diversity and inclusion agenda.
Although these are challenging times for all, I am so proud of what we continue to achieve in the face of uncertainty. The successes we have seen over the past year would not be possible without the engagement of our partners in industry, government and the alumni community. Thank you for your ongoing support, I look forward to further exploring the things we can do together.
Andrew Rau-Chaplin Dean, Faculty of Computer Science
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STUDENTS, TEACHING AND LEARNING
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Computer Science students recognized at Dalhousie's Impact Awards The Women in Technology Society (WiTS) received the Most Impactful Emerging Society Award for their growth and dedication to an inclusive environment for all students in Computer Science. WiTS president, Alicia Wong, was also awarded with the Faculty Leadership Award for her service to the student body and her consistently impressive academic record. Society-led initiative helps new graduate students make connections The Computer Science Graduate Society launched LOCAL GUIDES in September 2019 with the aim of providing new graduate students with the opportunity to connect with student mentors who can offer advice on the Faculty, Halifax, or even surviving a Nova Scotia winter. The initiative was spearheaded by Master of Computer Science student, Robbie MacGregor and will run as a standing piece of graduate orientation going forward. Communications Security Establishment (CSE) hires co-op students in innovative program Multiple undergraduate co-op students are being hired by CSE through a first of its kind outreach program. Students from Dalhousie and Acadia work in Halifax at the only CSE co-op office outside of Ottawa as part of their program to tap into Nova Scotiaâ€™s burgeoning tech scene and build their cyber security talent pipeline on the east coast. Almost 15 students have gone through the program since it launched in 2018 with one of the first student participants set to begin a full-time role with CSE in Ottawa in the fall.
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STUDENTS, TEACHING AND LEARNING
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Graduate program in digital innovation launches The Master of Digital Innovation (MDI) recently launched in place of the existing Master of Electronic Commerce (MEC) and Master of Health Informatics (MHI). The MDI is a customizable interdisciplinary program where students will gain the knowledge and experience, they need to enter a digital management career, learning from experts in the Faculties of Computer Science, Management, Law, and Medicine. Initial certificates are available in Digital Business and Health Informatics. Applications for September 2020 are now open. Government partnership focuses on the digital workforce of tomorrow A partnership between the Faculty and the Government of Canada is creating best practices for the attraction, retention, and development of the digital workforce of tomorrow. Working with Chief Information Officers from ten federal government departments, the project is providing real-world input into curriculum; enhancing co-op options and supporting the government with talent attraction, and; exploring solutions to shared challenges with diversity and inclusion in technology. All of this will feed into a public case-study that will aid other organizations and institutions in supporting the digital talent pipeline.
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CANADA RESEARCH CHAIRS
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Pandemic programming: International study reveals impacts of COVID-19 on software professionals An international study led by Computer Science researcher, Dr. Paul Ralph, has revealed the impacts of COVID-19 on those working in software professional roles—include its effects on well-being and prosperity. Launched in 12 languages and completed by more than 2,000 individuals in 53 countries, results are being used to make practical recommendations to the software industry when managing remote work during social isolation now, and in the future. Systems and networks research boosted by CFI funding Drs. Israat Haque and Qiang Ye are teaming up to tackle some of the challenges posed by the ever-expanding use of the internet with funding announced earlier this year through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF). Funding will support research in two critical areas: mobile wireless networks and Software-defined Networking (SDN). They hope to train a total of 48 PhD, masters and undergraduate students over five years as well as build a mini ecosystem in which to conduct their research. Dr. Luis Torgo announced as a Canada Research Chair Six scholars from Dalhousie, including computer science researcher Dr. Luis Torgo, were among the newest Canada Research Chairs. Dr. Torgo’s Chair is in Spatiotemporal Ocean Data Analytics and aims to develop novel spatiotemporal learning algorithms to obtain models useful in areas such as biodiversity analysis, ocean/atmospheric interactions, and ship tracking. Collaborations with domain experts and end users in industry and government will maximize the impact of the research and create new opportunities for multidisciplinary training.
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AI achievement Dr. Stan Matwin was awarded with the 2019 Canadian Artificial Intelligence Association (CAIC) Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is presented to individuals who have distinguished themselves through outstanding research excellence in Artificial Intelligence during the course of their academic career. Dr. Matwin is director of the Institute for Big Data Analytics, his research in Machine Learning has contributed to him becoming renowned internationally. New Executive Director for DeepSense Jennifer LaPlante joined DeepSense as executive director from the Atlantic Lottery Corporation where she set up the first innovation outpost in Atlantic Canada. Launched in 2018 and headquartered at the Faculty of Computer Science, DeepSense offers an innovation environment that brings together industry with data and ocean scientists to develop commercially useful AI and Machine Learning models. LaPlante is also a co-organizer of the Halifax Chapter of Women in Machine Learning and Data Science (WiMLDS). Listening to right whales in the ocean deeps Researchers from the Institute for Big Data Analytics-based MERIDIAN are using algorithms and machine learning to listen for the distinct calls of one of the world’s most endangered animals in a bid to identify where they are and shield them from one of their greatest threats. Researchers used a deep neural network trained on thousands of recordings of North Atlantic right whale calls that were collected in the Gulf of St. Lawrence over two years. The innovation could mean that right whales —slow, lumbering marine giants that stick close to the surface, putting them in danger of ship strikes—could be detected by the technology in real time as they pass through an area where there may be vessel traffic.
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MEET OUR NEW RESEARCHERS
Dr. Travis Gagie Algorithms and Bioinformatics Travis Gagie is an associate professor in the Faculty of Computer Science at Dalhousie University, studying compact data structures for bioinformatics with a focus on indexes for read-alignment against genomic databases. Prior to coming to Dalhousie in 2019 he spent fourteen years at universities and research institutes in Italy, Chile and Finland. He has a BSc in cognitive science from Queen's University at Kingston, an MSc in computer science from the University of Toronto, and a Dr. rer. nat. in genome informatics from Bielefeld University, Germany.
Dr. Helen Ai He Human-Computer Interaction, Visualization and Graphics Dr. Helen Ai He is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Computer Science, Dalhousie University. Her research tackles timely societal problems including: cross-cultural collaboration challenges in global work teams, open data visualizations for eco-sustainability, and technologies to address loneliness and deepen human connection. Dr. He's work is situated within Human-Computer Interaction and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, where she draws heavily from psychology, cultural anthropology, media art and urban studies to design technological interventions for social good.
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Dr. Joseph Malloch Human-Computer Interaction, Visualization and Graphics Joseph Malloch is an Assistant Professor with the Graphics and Experiential Media (GEM) lab and the HCI, Visualisation & Graphics research cluster in the Faculty of Computer Science at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on Human Computer Interaction, especially as applied to creative and expressive interaction with digital tools. His new “digital musical instruments”— including the T-Stick and the prosthetic “Spine”—have been performed and demonstrated around the world in dozens of concerts, including at international conferences, new music festivals, and performances with dancers. Dr. Paul Ralph Software Engineering, Human-Computer Interaction, Game Development Paul Ralph, PhD (British Columbia), B.Sc. / B.Comm (Memorial), is an award-winning scientist, author, consultant and computer science professor at Dalhousie University. His research intersects software engineering, human-computer interaction and project management. He has published more than 70 peer reviewed research articles and received over a $1,000,000 in competitive research funding. Paul also co-chairs the ACM SIGSOFT Paper and Peer Review Quality Initiative.
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INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
81 EVENTS 3200
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Hackathons jumpstart solutions to real-world issues The 2019/20 hackathon series run through ShiftKey Labs saw increased programming with events including the Atlantic Health Datapalooza which explored patient wait times in Nova Scotia; and Atlantic Canada’s first ever NASA Space Apps Challenge, where participants used authentic NASA data to help the space agency solve some of their challenges. Other themes included diversity and inclusion, government technology, and banking and insurance. Hackathons allow students to work on real-world problems, often with an industry partner. Most recently, ShiftKey Labs hosted Nova Scotia's first virtual hackathon to explore solutions to some of the challenges posed by COVID-19. Innovation course experiences growth The Technology Innovation course is seeing record growth with intake up 43 per cent, highlighting the demand from students to develop practical and handson skills in technology innovation and entrepreneurship. Throughout the course, students cover a full range of innovation methodologies and work in teams to apply learnings from the classroom to create a solution to an assigned problem. Their work culminates with a pitch to a panel of expert judges from the local innovation and entrepreneurship sectors. Care Mongering app aims to help communities during COVID-19 JeyaBalaji Samuthiravelu (MACS ‘17) and Srisaichand Singamaneni (MACS ‘19) are going digital to support their communities during COVID-19. Their newly developed “care mongering” web app aims to link people in need with those in their community who may be able to volunteer. The pair think it will mainly be used for coordinating small store pickups and groceries for people who are unable to leave their homes.
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INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
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Start-up makes waves in the ocean sector Alumni Matt Zimola (MACS â€™19) and Hossein Salimian (PhD â€™19) met through their shared interest in entrepreneurship and are now in the early stages of launching their startup, ReelData AI which uses AI and computer vision to collect and analyze data for fish farms. Their software remotely and non-intrusively measures biomass (weight distributions of fish), optimizes feeding and understands fish health in real time. ReelData has space at the Centre for Ventures & Entrepreneurship (COVE) and innovation hub Volta. Akram Al-Otumi joins ShiftKey Labs Entrepreneur and lecturer in innovation and entrepreneurship, Akram Al-Otumi has taken the reins as manager of Faculty of Computer Science-based sandbox ShiftKey Labs. Al-Otumi has founded multiple businesses including Spritely, a platform to support individuals in their transition to Canada; 3D Next, a 3D printing technology firm; and Al-Otumi Consulting. He brings his diverse entrepreneurial experience to his role where he will bring together students, faculty, industry, government and community together on technology-related innovation.
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WeAreAllCS: DIVERSITY IN COMPUTER SCIENCE
ACTIVE INDUSTRY PARTNERS
1000+ MENTORSHIP HOURS
Faculty honoured for WeAreAllCS initiative Recognition for the Faculty's ongoing WeAreAllCS initiative to increase the number of females entering undergraduate programs came in the form of a number of award wins. Alongside wins for the initiative’s working group including Diversity Champion of the Year at Digital Nova Scotia’s Digital Diversity Awards and the President’s Award for the Advancement of Equity, Diversity and Inclusiveness at Dalhousie’s annual Legacy Awards, dean Andrew Rau-Chaplin received the national Diversity Champion Award from Women in Communications and Technology. Women in Technology Society (WiTS) creating change With a commitment to increasing diversity and student interaction in technological fields through equality, learning and engagement, WiTS membership has increased by approximately 250% since 2017/18. Increased efforts in engagement, communication, community involvement and programming have led to this huge shift. The society provides many students with an essential network of peers through their collaboration with the Faculty on our peer mentorship scheme for first year female-identifying students and an active series of events. Business is Jammin’ visits campus We welcomed 30 students to campus to experience computer science and explore career options through the Black Business Initiative’s Business is Jammin’ initiative. The day introduced African Nova Scotian and Black students in grades 9 – 12 to new computing technologies, AI software, and innovation and entrepreneurship. Business is Jammin’ works with Black youth through a range of educational, social, mentorship, and financial support programs to build business acumen and leadership skills.
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WeAreAllCS: DIVERSITY IN COMPUTER SCIENCE
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First national forum on closing the gender gap comes to Dalhousie The Faculty hosted the first of three national forums organized by Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) and funded by the Department of Women and Gender Equality. Held in January 2020, these summits taking place across the country will contribute towards a Canadian roadmap for improved inclusion of women in digital workplaces. The event used real world case studies to focus on talent development from high school to advanced education and the early career attraction and retention of women. Mentorship matters In fall 2018, thirty-two incoming female undergraduate students and two current female students received the first Women in Technology Scholarships. Many of those students are now benefitting from mentorship from female leaders in industry alongside the financial benefits of the scholarship. Current industry partners include CGI, TD, MOBIA Technology Innovations, Analyze Re, Gogii Games, REIN, T4G, and not-for-profits Techsploration, Women in Communications and Technology (WCT), and the Leacross Foundation. WiTS were recently awarded with the Dalhousie Impact Award for Most Impactful Emerging Society.
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Grad helps make Pokémon fur fly Suwen Wang's (BCS ’07) work in the visual effects industry is helping bring to life some of the most incredible digital creations in movies and TV today, including the recently released POKÉMON: Detective Pikachu. Wang was working as a software developer for MPC Film in Vancouver, a global leading visual effects (VFX) studio, during production of the movie where he was assigned to a team that was developing software tools for animations and grooming that create realistic digital hair and fur, including for Pikachu. Anirudh Koul (BCS ’07) receives a 2019 Dalhousie Aurum Award Alum Koul was honoured for his work in developing Seeing AI, a talking smartphone app that helps people who are blind or low vision get descriptions of the world around them. It was an instant success when released by Microsoft in 2017, quickly becoming the defacto app used by the blind community worldwide. Koul is tapping into the potential of AI, with groundbreaking work that has been recognized by FCC Chairman’s Awards for Advancement in Accessibility as well as the American Council of the Blind. A woman of inspiration WeUsThem Principal and Chief Creative Officer, Faten Alshazly (BCSc’99) was named a Woman of Inspiration by the Canadian Business Chicks. Alshazly was honoured during an annual awards ceremony at the Metro Toronto Centre. This is the second nationally recognized award she received in 2019/20 after being named in Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network. Alshazly founded Halifax-based full-service creative agency, WeUsThem, with fellow computer science alum Ashwin Kutty.
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