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Applied Research in Action: U of T master’s students show off industry R&D projects

Jacqueline Tracey presents her research with Cardiac eHealth at the 2015 Applied Research in Action (photo by Paul Hillier)

Students of the University of Toronto's master of science in applied computing will be showing off their ingenuity tonight at Applied Research in Action, an event that showcases their work in research and development.

As part of their graduate program, applied computing students undertake an eight-month internship, where they work on an applied research project. They are supervised by both a faculty member and an industry supervisor at the company.

“I describe these internships as being at the intersection of development and pure research,” says Matt Medland, an assistant professor, teaching stream, in the department of computer science and the program’s director. “Our students use their graduate training to test a hypothesis and aim to design a solution or improvement that works.” 

U of T’s applied computing students will present the results of 36 projects involving 32 partner companies tonight at an academic poster session  at OnRamp, the co-working space for entrepreneurs. Attendance at the annual event has grown significantly, as Toronto’s booming tech sector looks to recruit master’s level expertise.

Mary Elaine Ramos Malit’s project at Rakuten Kobo focused on building an interactive query and response system to enhance the search and book recommendations for Kobo e-book customers.

“We want the customer to be engaged in the book discovery experience. To achieve that, we use data – book purchases and reading patterns – and unsupervised learning algorithms to optimize the categories and books displayed in the interactive application,” says Ramos Malit, who is also part of the program’s concentration in data science, offered jointly by the departments of computer science and statistical sciences.

Caroline Mattos, a master's student in applied computing, presents her applied research project with SecureKey at last year's Applied Research in Action  (photo by Paul Hillier)

Before starting their internships, students enrol in graduate courses, which may include natural language computing, taught by U of T assistant professor of computer science Frank Rudzicz, a research scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and a member of the Vector Institute.

Rudzicz is also a co-founder of WinterLight Labs, where Josh Ames worked on the U of T startup’s artificial intelligence diagnostic platform for assessing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

“The objective of this research project was to construct a speech recognition pipeline optimized for pathological speakers. This tool will help to automate transcription and further refine WinterLight’s cognitive impairment classifiers,” Ames says.

“It's exciting to work at a startup developing technology that will aid in early detection of neurological symptoms and ultimately improve prognosis and quality of life.”

ROSS Intelligence, the U of T startup that build an artificial intelligence-powered legal research tool, was on campus in the spring  to recruit interns to work on developing a  legal answering system.  

“There are a lot of smart people, but it’s a different skill being able to take theory, apply it and build a product,”  co-founder and CTO Jimoh Ovbiagele said at the time.

 “It’s not just research – but research and development. The applied computing program embodies this.”

Twenty-eight of the applied research projects this year were supported by Mitacs Accelerate.