Mitacs Globalink Projects

I received notice a few days ago that both of the project proposals that I submitted to the 2016 Mitacs Globalink program have been approved.

What does this mean? It means that I’m looking for up to 4 interns who might want to join my lab next summer to help out on either of the projects listed below. Specifically I’m looking for undergraduate students from universities in participating countries (which includes Australia, Brazil, China, France, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Vietnam). If you or someone you know might be interested, check out the Mitacs Globalink website for details on how to apply.

Student applications (through the Mitacs website) are due by September 24th.


Investigating Alternative Methods for Data Collection: Gamification for Longitudinal Data

Project Description

Standard phone survey methods are expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to conduct. Ensuring representivity across a broad population (such as the population of Canada, or that within each of the Canadian provinces and territories) is challenging. These challenges are exacerbated by changing telephone use; from land-line to wireless, or listed to unlisted numbers, within various demographic groups. Further, researchers have identified a decline in the number of citizens willing to participate in surveys for epidemiological purposes. This research project will

  1. Identify a set of alternative data collection methods, including but not limited to, online surveys, mobile applications, social media applications, social media data pulls, and online games.
  2. Investigate the utility of each of the alternative methods identified in (1) by using appropriate statistical methods to compare demographic subgroups. In this phase of the project, students will also develop online tools that incorporate elements of gamification to improve survey completion rates, reduce data missingness, and encourage follow-up data (specifically for longitudinal studies).
  3. Compare each of the methods identified in (1) to determine the most appropriate method to use for demographic subgroups. This will include an investigation of statistical comparability to standard survey results, and a study to assess the spread of each of the methods identified in (1) (i.e. we will study the viral nature of each of the methods).
  4. Investigate the use of immediate user feedback and its effects on survey response and spread through social media channels.
Student Roles

The student will be assisting a team of undergraduate and graduate researchers to design, implement, and test various different applications for collecting census-like survey data (through time). The applications will be developed for the web or mobile devices (iOS, and/or Android environments), and may also include apps developed for Facebook. Data may also be pulled from Twitter, and other social media platforms.

The specific goal of this project will be the development of several tools to collect longitudinal survey responses by incorporating game design elements (such as rewards and other incentives) to encourage survey respondents to return for follow-up questionnaires.

The student will spend the first portion of their internship learning about gamification, and learning (if necessary) the coding languages that will be used to implement the tools. That is, the student is not expected to have experience in a specific programming language, but should be expected to know how to code, and the ability to learn a new programming language.

Since this is a team project, the intern will be expected to take part in weekly meetings, provide updates about their portion of the project to the team, and actively participate in team decision-making. Finally, while the intern will be expected to work independently, they are also expected to communicate challenges and potential solutions with the team.

Required Skills

The student should have a strong computer science background. While mathematics and statistics skills are helpful, they are not required. The student should have strong written and oral communication skills. The student should be able to work as part of a team, as well as able to work independently. Experience developing apps (iOS, Blackberry, Android) and/or working with social media APIs is useful, but not necessary.


Touching the Curve: Facilitating Math & Stats Education with Sound, Gesture, and NextGen Tech Devices

Project Description

The goal of the Sonification and Gesture Control (SonG-C) research program is to develop tools to facilitate the mathematics and statistics education of the visually impaired. Specifically, we are developing tools that combine sonification (sound) and gesture controls to evaluate their effectiveness to improve the understanding of mathematical and/or statistical concepts for individuals who are visually impaired. The program includes developing and evaluating tools that combine sonification with

  1. touch devices (such as the iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone),
  2. next generation gesture control devices (such as the Leap Motion or the MYO Armband by Thalmic Labs).

The idea – determine if hand gestures and sound can be used to “visualize”, for example, a parabola, or a scatterplot of data. If so, we seek to understand the types of information a visually impaired individual can glean from this “visualization”, and then determine the effect this has on their ability to understand mathematical and statistical concepts.

Student Roles

The student will be expected to develop tools that will be tested for their utility to improve the mathematics and statistics understanding of the visually impaired. The student will work with a team to implement and test tools that incorporate touch screen, and next generation devices with sound. This may include web development, and/or app development (iOS and/or Android).

The first portion of the internship will be set aside for the intern to learn about sonification, and to review the work that has been completed to date (including any coding standards that have been implemented). They will also have time to learn about the specific coding languages (likely C, C++, or C#, although other options may be available). That is, the student is not expected to have a mastery of these particular languages, but should know how to code, and have the ability to learn a new language.

The student will work in a team. As such, they will be expected to attend weekly meetings, provide updates on their progress and challenges, and contribute to team decisions.

Required Skills

The student should have a strong computer science background. While mathematics and statistics skills are helpful, they are not required. The student should have strong written and oral communication skills. The student should be able to work as part of a team, as well as be able to work independently.

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