Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers Announced

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am extremely grateful that I get to work with the group of nerds that I do. They are intelligent, passionate, and driven humans who excel academically and as community-engaged citizens. And they are constantly teaching me and challenging the ways in which I view and understand the world. So I take great pride when I’m able to celebrate their many contributions and accomplishments, because I get to repeatedly say that I work with the best nerds!

Obviously today is one of those days, because today I learned that two of my undergraduate students have received Honourable Mentions from a North American search for the Computing Research Association’s Undergraduate Research Awards. In fact, Brandon Edwards and Keefer Rourke are two of fewer than twenty Canadians who made the list.

Brandon Edwards, Department of Mathematics & Statistics

Brandon Edwards (Department of Mathematics & Statistics), who will begin his MSc studies next fall, has been working with me since the 2nd semester of his undergraduate degree. In that time, he has developed and led his own research program that combines the disciplines of mathematics, statistics, computer science, and biology to better understand anthropogenic impacts on animal populations. In particular, he has co-developed a novel Environmental Agent Based Model to better understand how the Piping Plover – an endangered shorebird – is affected by human activities. In addition to numerous conference presentations and posters, he has co-authored several peer-reviewed papers, and developed several R packages (bbsBayes and melodus) that are currently being used by researchers around the world. He has also received numerous scholarships and awards, including the Jay Majithia Scholarship in Computer Science (2017, 2018), the Gordon Ashton Scholarship in Mathematics & Statistics (2018), the Arthur D. Latornell Travel Grant (2018), the Waterbird Society Student Travel Grant (2018), a University of Guelph Travel Grant (2017), the American Ornithological Society travel grant (2017, 2019), a Northern Science Training Program Grant (2019), and a Taverner Grant (2019). He has also served as the President of the University of Guelph’s Wildlife Club, and received Club Member of the Year in 2017.

Keefer Rourke, School of Computer Science

Keefer Rourke (School of Computer Science) also began working with me in his 2nd semester of his undergraduate degree. Since that time, he has been an active member of three separate research programs including 1) the development of tools to provide computer science students with immediate feedback (a response to ever growing classroom sizes), 2) the development of the eNuk health and environment monitoring program for the Inuit of Rigolet in Nunatsiavut, Labrador, and 3) the Bridging the Canadian Digital Divide research program which explores the use of wireless mobile networks to improve connectivity in remote and rural locations of Canada. As a contributing member to these programs, Keefer has co-authored eight academic talks, one invited workshop, and four posters. He has been on the Dean’s Honours List since he began his studies, has received the Jay Majithia Scholarship (2018), and the Michele and Maria Vannelli Scholarship (2018). Most recently, he was awarded the Ian Pavlinic Memorial Co-op Student of the Year Award (2018) and was nominated for the EWO (provincial) and CEWIL (national) Co-op Student of the Year Awards. In addition to this, Keefer’s work has supported the development of numerous Master’s and PhD dissertations, and more than 20 academic conference presentations and posters. He also won a global essay competition put on by Major League Hacking to explore ethics in computing. And if that weren’t enough, Keefer also contributed to the drafting of the $2.13 Million Mitacs research grant that my lab received through a partnership with Left.io to explore the digital divide in Canada. Beyond all of this, and while maintaining high academic standing, Keefer has led the Guelph Coding Community and served as Vice President External of the Society of Computing and Information Science.

Clearly, both Keefer and Brandon are exceptional students and highly deserving of this honour. That I get to work with and learn from them is a privilege.

Brandon and Keefer – this is a well deserved honour for you both. As always, you have me wondering what are you going to do next? No doubt, whatever you choose to do next, I’m sure will be equally as impressive.

Congratulations to you both.

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