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.
Message from the Dean
Students, Teaching, Learning |
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
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PLACEMENT RATE FOR CO-OP STUDENTS
CANADA RESEARCH CHAIRS
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MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN As we come to the end of an academic year filled with change, I am excited to explore how we can embrace long-term innovation and opportunities as we emerge from this extraordinary period in our history. The opportunities for us in computing have never been stronger and we simply cannot take advantage of them without the support of our partners. The Province of Nova Scotia recently announced a $16.8m investment to expand computer science education in Nova Scotia with Dalhousie receiving $13.3m of that funding. This investment will enable us to expand our role as Atlantic Canada’s largest centre for computer science education and research and continue to improve supports and opportunities for our students. In addition to growing our core computer science research and educational programs, we look to developing new capacity at digital intersections with other Faculties. I am hopeful that through this we can work with industry and sector partners to nurture Nova Scotia’s digital workforce, making it one of North America’s most attractive jurisdictions for digital talent and companies. As we look ahead to a post-COVID-19 world, it is safe to say that our students and research will be more in demand than ever before. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, our students continue to engage in meaningful experiential learning opportunities in the form of co-op, internships, and research. Over the past year, 100% of our Master of Applied Computer Science students successfully secured internships and our undergraduate students completed co-op terms with companies locally, nationally, and internationally. In our
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communities and the K-12 system, we continue to work hard in providing equitable access to computer science education through outreach and have recently launched a dual-credential partnership with the Faculty of Open Learning and the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Our educational and research programs continue to grow and adapt. By sharing teaching experiences, and even attending each other’s classes, instructors in the Faculty have been expanding their pedagogical horizons through an approach known as a community of practice. This initiative has helped our instructors adapt to the realities of online teaching and develop techniques that will have a lasting impact on education delivery for our students. The tools and techniques we have developed over the past year will enable us to continue to offer the best possible educational experience for our students as we move ahead and expand our research efforts in computer science education. We continue to hire top faculty members that span our key research areas of Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Human-Computer Interaction, Visualization and Graphics, Systems, and Algorithms and Bioinformatics. Researchers across our areas have been making a global impact and contributing towards COVID-19 efforts. Machine learning is automating the detection of marine life in the Bay of Fundy. New research is using AI to analyze public emotions during self-isolation through Twitter. Genomic data is being used to better understand
how COVID-19 and its variants behave. And machine learning is simulating soccer to promote AI and robotics research. I look forward to continuing to grow our research capacity as we continue to welcome new experts into the Faculty and build closer connections with our external partners. As we enter this exciting period for the Faculty, there has never been a better time than now to work together. Whether it’s hiring a co-op student, providing insights into our curriculum, or engaging in an applied research project, I would love to find out how we can leverage this opportunity to enhance our digital pipeline and boost the digital economy in Nova Scotia and beyond. Thank you for your continued support, I am looking forward to seeing what we can do together.
Andrew Rau-Chaplin Dean, Faculty of Computer Science
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STUDENTS, TEACHING AND LEARNING
Sarah Meng Li awarded with Dalhousie's Board of Governor's Award
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NEW PARTNERSHIPS OPENS DOORS TO POST-SECONDARY COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATION The Faculty continues to develop partnerships to find new ways to engage with our future students. In February 2021, Dalhousie and the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) launched a pilot dual-credential opportunity for high school students that not only teaches them the foundations of computer science but will also give them an optional credit towards the first-year course, CSCI 1105 Introduction to Computer Programming, which is a core first year course in the Faculty of Computer Science. This model will help students from across the province see that they can succeed at the university level. In addition, Dalhousie has been announced as the first Canadian institution to offer a 2+2-degree program with Sri Lanka’s premier transnational higher education provider, University College Lanka (UCL). This is the first pathway program of its kind for Dalhousie and will allow students to complete the first two years of their computer science studies at Dalhousie from their home country before joining us in Canada to complete their third and fourth year. HOW A COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE IS EMPOWERING COMPUTER SCIENCE FACULTY Instructors are gaining moral support and expanding their pedagogical horizons thanks to a new movement in the Faculty known as the community of practice. Educational developer, Stephanie Bernier, developed this model in collaboration with instructors to support with the transition to online teaching and encourage an environment where individuals can learn from each other. Since its inception, instructors have benefited from peer observation and enhanced collaboration, all with the objective of ensuring students receive the best quality learning experience.
Sarah Meng Li awarded with Dalhousie's Board of Governor's Award
STUDENTS HONOURED THROUGH DALHOUSIE AWARD PROGRAMS Sarah Meng LI was awarded with Dalhousie Board of Governors' Award, The university’s top award for student life. Liam Herbert was announced as Dalhousie’s Top Computer Science Co-op Student of the Year for 2020 for his work at Kinaxis and GraceNote. Women in Technology Society president, Olivia Handspiker won the Faculty Leadership Award at the annual on-campus student Impact Awards, while Yara Ahmed was honoured with a Rising Star Award. Students from across the Faculty were also recognized at the annual Computer Science Society Snowball Awards which took place virtually for the first time in its 24-year history. COMPUTER SCIENCE ANNUAL UPDATE | 2020 - 2021 7
STUDENTS, TEACHING AND LEARNING
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COMPUTER SCIENCE STUDENT SUPPORTS IN DEVELOPMENT OF NEW COVID-19 SCREENING APP Bachelor of Computer Science student, Matt Peachey, supported the Faculty of Health with the creation of a new app that has helped to streamline COVID-19 pre-screening before gatherings on campus, ensuring the safety of learners, faculty and clinical staff. The goal of the application was to develop an efficient solution to support students to complete the pre-screen, decrease the entrance and screening time required prior to entry into the building, and have an electronic record for tracking purposes. NATIONAL GOVERNMENT PROGRAMMING COMPETITION WIN FOR TAHAJJAT BEGUM
Students have remained connected through extra-curricular activities despite the pandemic.
Without the support of her supervisors, Master of Electronic Commerce student Tahajjat Begum feels that she would not have had the confidence to achieve everything she has during her time at Dalhousie, including winning the 2019/20 Statistics Canada Business Data Scientist Challenge. The annual Statistics Canada Business Data Scientist Challenge invites graduate students and senior undergraduate students in economics, data science, computer science, mathematics and statistics to apply data analytics or analysis techniques to increase the Government’s understanding of data trends and opportunities.
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CANADA RESEARCH CHAIRS
IN RESEARCH FUNDING
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RESEARCHERS CONTRIBUTE TO COVID-19 EFFORTS Multiple projects across the Faculty’s research areas are using technology to consider the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. A project led by computer scientists and colleagues in Community Health and Epidemiology is using artificial intelligence to analyze the public emotions expressed through millions of tweets across the globe and identify trends that could make a significant impact on public policy. In bioinformatics, postdoctoral fellow, Finlay Maguire, is using genomic data to better understand how COVID-19 and its variants behave. DR. RITA ORJI HONOURED WITH NATIONAL RECOGNITIONS It has been a big year for Dr. Rita Orji. In 2020 alone, the researcher whose focus is on persuasive technology and developing interactive digital systems for social good, became a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Persuasive Technology and was admitted into the Royal Society of Canada as a Member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. More recently, she was announced as the first faculty member from an institution in Atlantic Canada to receive the CS-Can|Info-Can Outstanding Early Career Researcher Award.
Dr. Rita Orji, honoured with national recognitions.
NEW RESEARCH CLUSTER IN CS EDUCATION LAUNCHES Led by recent hire Eric Poitras, whose research area focuses on instructional development and educational technology, the cluster will work at the intersection of research and computer science education to continue to innovate in this area and develop new approaches to teaching and learning. The research cluster will raise the bar on how the Faculty assesses student learning and faculty-delivered education, applying the rigour of academic research to their academic mission.
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AI USED TO SIMULATE SOCCER WITH INSPIRATION FROM THE WORLD’S TOP PLAYERS Using AI and machine learning to mimic the behaviour ofthe likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, a team ofresearchers from the Institute for Big Data Analytics werenamed as world champions in the world's largest international AI soccer simulation competition, RoboCup 2021. These methods are presenting new ways to play and consume sports particularly during a time where much in person activity has been suspended, the team is also identifying other ways to use this research to address bigger issues such as cleaning our oceans. DEEPSENSE PROJECT MAKES FOR EASIER FISH FINDING ON TIDAL ENERGY PROJECTS
DeepSense creates EchoFilter for OERA and FORCE.
The DeepSense team are helping make marine environmental monitoring for tidal-energy projects easier, more reliable and more effective by creating custom applications for use by researchers and developers. Their work is part of the Pathway Program — a technology development and testing initiative being led by OERA (Offshore Energy Research Association) and FORCE (Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy). DeepSense has created Echofilter — a new software that uses artificial intelligence and machine-learning methods to automate processing of environmental monitoring results from echosounders, a type of sonar that uses sound to detect fish and other marine life.
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MEET OUR NEW RESEARCHERS CARLOS HERNANDEZ-CASTILLO Carlos Hernandez-Castillo is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Computer Science. His research is divided into two interconnected areas and he is interested in understanding the human brain with a particular interest in the cerebellum. Second, he seeks to apply artificial intelligence algorithms to improve analytic and diagnostic tools for clinical assessment, primarily for magnetic resonance imaging but also for other techniques and behavioral scales. Dr. Hernandex-Castillo is an electronic engineer born in Mexico where he obtained an MSc (AI) and PhD (Neuroethology) in Universidad Veracruzana. During his PhD, he spent time in the Biomedical Research Imaging Center at University of North Carolina, Chapel hill. As a postdoc, he worked at UNAM in Mexico City, Queen's University in Kingston and Western University in London.
ERIC POITRAS Eric Poitras is an Assistant Professor with the Computer Science Education research cluster in the Faculty of Computer Science. His research focuses on adaptive instructional systems and technologies that tailor instruction to the specific needs of different learners. He draws on theories and methods from psychology, education, and computer science to design cognitive tools that facilitate program comprehension during learning.
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MASUD RAHMAN Masud Rahman, PhD (Saskatchewan), is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Computer Science. He is interested in intelligent automation of software maintenance and evolution with a particular focus on software debugging, code search, and code reviews. His work received $250K+ in competitive research funding and got published at the top venues of Software Engineering. Masud received several prestigious awards including Governor General’s Gold Medal, Dalhousie Belong Research Fellowship and TCSE Distinguished paper award. He has been actively collaborating with multiple academic and industry partners (e.g., Mozilla Corporation) for his work. Masud also serves as a PC member and as a reviewer of the top conferences and journals in Software Engineering.
CHRIS WHIDDEN Chris Whidden, is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Computer Science. His research focuses on algorithm development, analysis, and optimization with applications to bioinformatics and oceans research, such as studying gene transfer of antimicrobial resistance or detecting fish from underwater video. Dr. Whidden has been a Killam Fellow (PhD, Dalhousie) a Simons Foundation Fellow of the Life Sciences Research Foundation (postdoctoral research, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center) and the Algorithms and Software Specialist for the DeepSense applied oceans industry research initiative.
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INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
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SHIFTKEY LABS PROGRAMMING GOES VIRTUAL Despite the restrictions brought by COVID-19, technology innovation sandbox, ShiftKey Labs, ran another successful year of programming for students, industry, and the community. Virtual programming included the popular hackathon series which covered the topics of aviation technology, healthy ageing and climate action with partners including Air Canada, Halifax Stanfield Airport, Technation Canada, Pulse (Dalhousie’s Health Innovation Sandbox), Halifax Innovation District, Halifax Regional Municipality, Halifax Partnership and HalifACT. AKRAM AL-OTUMI NAMED AS THE GLOBAL ENACTUS ALUMNI OF THE YEAR Director of ShiftKey Labs, Akram Al-Otumi was recognized for his work in the innovation and entrepreneurship space. Enactus is a global non-profit dedicated to using the power of entrepreneurial action to change lives. The organization exists in 37 countries, 1730 campuses and has over 750000 members. Al-Otumi founded the Enactus Dalhousie chapter in 2012 and served as president. He also founded the Nova Scotia alumni chapter and has remained active since graduating in the roles of judge, league coordinator, and speaker.
Students participate in a ShiftKey Labs hackathon, before the COVID-19 pandemic.
STUDENT START-UP MAKES MEAL PLANNING EASIER Undergraduate students Deep Dave and Shivam Mahajan's participation in innovation and entrepreneurship activity has helped them to establish their start-up, Mealful — a Halifax-based meal plan subscription that provides meals from local restaurants. The idea has been supported through the ShiftKey Labs Lab Residency program and VoltaLEAP.
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WeAreAllCS: DIVERSITY IN COMPUTER SCIENCE
ACTIVE INDUSTRY PARTNERS
1000+ MENTORSHIP HOURS
FACULTY HONOURED FOR WEAREALLCS INITIATIVE The Faculty was selected as one of only eight institutions globally to partake in the 2020 BRAID Affiliates program, a world-leading diversity and inclusion initiative. BRAID is committed to efforts to increase the participation of students from underrepresented groups — racial/ethnic minorities and women — in their undergraduate Computer Science programs. We have spent the past year collaborating with institutions from across the globe to further our equity, diversity and inclusion agenda. LEADERSHIP PROGRAM FOR WOMEN IN TECH LAUNCHES Earlier this year, in collaboration with the Leacross Foundation, the Leadership Program for Women in Tech was launched for our current female-identifying students. This new program includes scholarships for upper year students, professional development programming through the WinSETT Centre, mentorship and co-op opportunities. During this pilot year, 26 students have participated in the program with more expected to engage during the 2021/22 academic year.
Diversity in computer science remains a top priority through our WeAreAllCS initiative.
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WeAreAllCS: DIVERSITY IN COMPUTER SCIENCE
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NATIONAL AWARDS PROGRAM FOR WOMXN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS COMES TO THE EAST COAST The Faculty represented Eastern Canada as an affiliate of the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing. The Award for Aspirations in Computing (AiC) honors 9th-12th grade students who self-identify as women, genderqueer, or non-binary for their computing-related achievements and interests and encourages them to pursue their passions. In an awards ceremony in February 2021, 12 local high school students were honoured. WOMEN IN TECHNOLOGY SOCIETY TAKE PEER MENTORSHIP ONLINE The Women in Technology Society (WiTS) didn’t let in-person restriction halt their popular peer mentorship program for female-identifying first year students. The team of student leaders worked with Halifax-based mentorship organization, EnPoint, to move the program to their online platform. The program provides new students with support from upper year students to help them with their transition to post-secondary education.
WiTS have taken their programming online including the popular peer mentorship program.
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NEW CHILDREN’S BOOK OFFERS NEW WAY TO LEARN THE ABC Sage Franch (BCS’16) released ABC Technology Book which introduces little technologists to basic technology concepts with each letter of the alphabet. With representation at its core, the final result is a tech adventure that every kid can see themselves in. Franch is a developer, entrepreneur, and children’s book author. She is the CEO and founder of Crescendo, a platform that helps global companies with diversity and inclusion. Sage is passionate about improving equitable access to technology and using technology for good. ALUM FOUNDED START-UP, REELDATA A.I, SCORES NEW FUNDING The Halifax-based start-up announced that they have partnered with S2G Ventures’ Ocean and Seafood Fund on a $2.5 million seed investment. Founded by alums Matt Zimola (MACS ’19) and Hossein Salimian (PhD ’19), ReelData A.I uses AI and computer vision to collect and analyze data for fish farms, helping them to maximize their potential with business automation and operations solutions.
Alum Sage Franch launches new children's book.
MACS GRAD HELPS TO SOLVE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS Viswanath Sathananth (MACS’19) creates software that serves millions of people in Canada and the U.S. with easy-to-use digital tools for solid waste, including a Collection Calendar, Mobile App, a Waste Sorting Game, and more in his role as a software developer for ReCollect. ReCollect is a technology company that combines deep expertise in solid waste and recycling with technology that works for government and business organizations.
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CONNECT WITH US ON SOCIAL @dalfcs
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